June 7, 2001 Although genetically modified organisms have a role to play in the globe's future, scientists and governments should proceed with caution as they release these organisms into the environment, according to researchers at the Ecological Society of America.
These cautionary words were issued as part of an official statement on GMOs which the Society released today in Washington, DC.
"It's important to recognize that some GMOs can possess genuinely new characteristics that may require much greater scrutiny in terms of scientific research than organisms produced by traditional techniques of plant and animal breeding. In particular, we really need more peer-reviewed research on the potential environmental effects of GMOs," says Diana Wall. Wall, who is the Director of the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory at Colorado State University, served as Chair of the ad hoc committee which developed the GMO statement approved by the Society's Governing Board.
The Ecological Society of America is a professional, scientific society founded in 1915. ESA members are leaders in ecological research and education. They hail from academia, government agencies, industry, and non-profit organizations and work to provide the ecological knowledge needed to contribute to environmental problem solving across the globe. The Society is perhaps best known for publishing three scientific, peer-reviewed research journals: Ecology, Ecological Applications, and Ecological Monographs.
Cases of particular concern which were cited in the ESA statement include instances where an organism can persist without human intervention. Also of concern: the exchange of genetic material between GMOs and unaltered organisms within the environment. Some GMOs may also be given traits which would provide an advantage over native species in some environments.
Pointing to these concerns, the ESA recommends an assessment of environmental risk for all GMOs in order to minimize the potentially negative ecological effects they may have. The potentially negative effects could include:
* creating new or more vigorous pests and pathogens
* exacerbating the effects of existing pests through hybridization with related transgenic plants or animals
* harm to non-target species, such as soil organisms, non-pest insects, birds and other animals
* disruptive effects on biotic communities
* irreparable loss or changes in species diversity and genetic diversity within a species.
"ESA urges scientifically-based risk assessment of GMOs and standards appropriate for product testing and release into the environment," says the Society's statement. "The ESA is committed to providing scientific information that can aid in the development of GMOs with neutral or beneficial ecological effects."
To read the full statement, visit the ESA website at: http://esa.sdsc.edu/statement0601.htm
The Ecological Society of America (ESA) is a scientific, non-profit, 7,800-member organization founded in 1915. Through ESA reports, journals, membership research, and expert testimony to Congress, ESA seeks to promote the responsible application of ecological data and principles to the solution of environmental problems. ESA publishes three scientific, peer-reviewed journals: Ecology, Ecological Applications, and Ecological Monographs. Information about the Society and its activities is published in the Society's quarterly newsletter, ESA NewSource, and in the quarterly Bulletin.
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