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 Volume 6 | Issue 23 | June 03, 2012 ||


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Environmental Risk Assessment of Genetically Engineered Plants

Md Riajul Hossain and Nilanjana Paul

Taking questions from the enthusiastic audience.

A three day long International Conference on Environmental Risk Assessment (ERA) of Genetically Engineered (GE) Plants took place from April 15 to 17, 2012 at BRAC Centre Inn, Dhaka, Bangladesh. The conference was arranged by South Asia Biosafety Program (SABP) in association with Bangladesh Academy of Sciences (BAS), Bangladesh Department of Environment (DOE) and The Pakistan Strategy Support Program.

Scientists from different countries all over the world talked about the environmental risk assessment of GE plants. On the very first day of the conference, Dr Andrew Roberts started with a brief history of ERA for GE plants and the commercial introduction of the products produced by this way and then described the international obligations and basic concept of risk assessment. Dr Sol Ortiz-Garcia explained the risk assessment under the Cartagena Protocol. The other issues that were addressed include: differential environmental risk assessment and ecological research, evaluating adverse environmental impacts on non-target organisms, considering gene flow to wild and weedy relatives, gene flow in centers of origin of biodiversity and the challenge of addressing biodiversity as protection. The second day presentations considered stewardship and resistance management for GE crops, insect and herbicide resistance management. The speakers stressed the matter that risk assessment of these types of plants should be carried out in a scientifically sound and transparent manner and the assessment, definitely, should be carried out on a case-by-case basis.

Scientists from India, Pakistan and host country took part in it. The Secretary of Bangladesh Academy of Sciences, Professor Naiyyum Choudhury raised the issue that if GM does not have any risks, with which all scientists agree, why should there be such concern regarding risk assessment? Andrew Roberts, in reply, told that due to the public concern and debate over using this technology to produce food, the countries have formulated their own way of risk assessment and regulatory activities. The discussants also agreed to take opinions from scientists and general people for individual countries to determine the possibility and promise of GM crops and foods in the individual countries. Especially in Bangladesh, public awareness campaigning and setting up regulatory framework for the GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) is very important. Appropriate regulatory activities can inform farmers about the use of GM crops, their appropriate cultivation, herbicide and pesticide uses. In the discussion, all agreed to the point that there is a huge promise for the GMOs in face of the food crisis with the increasing hunger as population is increasing at a high rate.

(The writers are Lecturers at the Department of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, University of Dhaka.)


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