Genetically Engineered Insects: The Risk Assessment


As reported in the journal “Ecology and Evolution” , researchers from the University of Minnesota are working on developing a new approach for studying effects of using genetically engineered (GE) insects. GE insects are aspired to be used for purposes of managing pests and insect-borne human diseases.

Researchers including David Andow, Aaron David, Joe Kaser, Amy Morey and Alex Roth are working on designing a standardized ecological risk assessment (ERA) for using such an approach.

“Our project is trying to get it a little bit further into a standardization — a framework for how do you go about systematically evaluating a new technology so you’re looking at all the sorts of different interactions that could possibly happen,” Morey says.

Joe Kaser further stated that they are focusing on all ecological effects of GE insects, whether it is favorable or unfavorable. Evaluating all possible effects is what makes their research different from others, as they are not only looking at the final population state, but are instead evaluating the whole process according to Roth.

“The idea is that there isn’t much info on what happens when you release a GE organism so we drew upon other literature to get at the answer of what happens when you perturb populations,” said Aaron David.

The researchers added that once GE insects are more common, they hope their framework would provide guidance to improve future risk assessments and guarantee the safety of such approaches.
Such a step is highly needed now that voices are being raised to support the release of GE insects into the environment.  Scientists are hoping that such GE insects would become a safe alternative to health-jeopardizing chemical pesticides. However, one who looks at the bigger picture remains skeptic of such continuous human tempering of nature; leaving us pondering the questions: is this necessary? And, is this safe?

Source: Science Daily

University of Minnesota (2013, November 18). New approach to identify possible ecological effects of releasing genetically engineered insects. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 22, 2013

Photo Credit: Leszek Leszczynski

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