Report on Confining GE Organisms Praised
Statement of CSPI Biotechnology Project Director Gregory Jaffe
January 20, 2004
The National Research Council’s report accurately describes the strengths and weaknesses of different confinement methods for genetically engineered (GE) organisms. Unfortunately, the report concludes that there are virtually no viable bioconfinement methods that could be adopted commercially without significant additional research and testing. The science for creating risky genetically engineered organisms clearly exists today, but methods for safely confining those organisms do not.
Until the science surrounding reliable confinement methods catches up with product development, only GE organisms determined to be safe without the need for strict confinement should be commercialized. Risky applications of genetic engineering—such as producing vaccines or other drugs in food crops—should not be allowed.
The federal government should immediately adopt the recommendations of the NRC report. Recommendations that would increase safety and consumer confidence include the report’s call for transparency and public participation in the regulatory process, a rigorous regulatory system with inspections and enforcement, extensive environmental monitoring, and consideration of the potential effects of a genetically engineered organism on other nations. Unfortunately, many of these same, sound, science-based principles have been rejected or ignored in the past. But until the regulatory system catches up with what the biotechnology industry wants to do, consumers and the environment will be at risk.
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