UK advisors warn of GMO regulation confusion

Expert committee urges continued separation of safety, socio-economic, assessment

Risk assessment of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) intended to be released to the environment is in danger of being devalued by incorporation of wider socio-economic issues into the process, an official UK scientific committee said yesterday. National and EU regulation of GMOs "needs to remain focused on safety," the Advisory Committee on Release to the Environment (ACRE) said in its annual report. "Social, ethical and other issues...should be debated elsewhere by those with the appropriate competence." Interviewed by ENDS Daily, committee chairman John Beringer expressed concern that the forthcoming revision of the EU's "deliberate release" directive would include socio-economic assessment elements. Issues such as whether to segregate GMO crops should be dealt with by the market, he said. However, the committee also highlights assessment of "additive effects" of widespread use of GMOs as a "hole" in current regulatory approaches. While most individual herbicide or insect-resistant modified crops have minimal environmental impacts, widespread use of many types of modified crops could cause problems that are difficult to address through case-by-case risk assessment, Professor Beringer said. "We feel someone has got to address these longer term issues."Follow Up:
Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment, tel: +44 171 890 5275.

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