GENET archive


9-Misc: Study of UK GM Science Review published

genet-news mailing list

-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

SOURCE: GM Science Review, UK, Press Release
DATE:   Jul 21, 2003

------------------- archive: -------------------


[The Science Review Panel's report is available for downloading from this
page [link].]

The GM Science Review Panel today published the results of its full, open
and independent review of current scientific knowledge on GM crops and foods.

The report by a panel of experts has found no scientific case for ruling
out all GM crops and their products, but nor does it give them blanket
approval. It emphasises that GM is not a single homogeneous technology
and its applications need to be considered on a case-by-case basis. The
Panel also emphasised the importance of GM regulation keeping pace with
new developments.

Worldwide there have been no verifiable ill effects reported from the
extensive consumption of products from GM crops over seven years by
humans and livestock. Some argue that this, combined with the testing
required for regulatory clearance, provides important assurance of
safety. But others argue for additional research including
epidemiological surveillance. Such surveillance is very difficult for any
whole food, GM or otherwise, although work is being taken forward in this

On balance, the Panel concludes that the risks to human health from GM
crops currently on the market are very low. But depending on the crops
developed GM may present greater challenges in risk management in the
future. It is important to continue to develop safety assessment
technologies, effective surveillance, monitoring and labelling systems.

The Panel also found that, for the current generation of GM crops, the
most important issue was their potential effect on farmland and wildlife.
This is currently being investigated with the examination of the impact
of herbicide tolerant crops on the environment in the Farm Scale Evaluations.

Detailed field experiments on current generation GM crops show that in a
range of environments they are very unlikely to invade the countryside
and become problematic plants. Nor are they likely to be toxic to
wildlife. But it is clear that gaps in our knowledge and uncertainties
will become more complex if the range of plants and traits introduced

The report identifies areas where more scientific research is needed
including allergenicity, soil ecology, farmland biodiversity and
consequences of gene flow. It also calls for companies to make good
choices in terms of gene design and plant hosts, and to develop products
that meet wider social wishes. Finally, the regulatory system in the UK
should continue to operate so that it is sensitive to the degree of risk
and uncertainty, recognises the distinctive features of GM, divergent
scientific perspectives and associated gaps in knowledge, as well as
taking into account the conventional breeding context and baselines.

The Government's Chief Scientific Adviser Sir David King who chaired the
panel said:

"GM is a subject of intense debate and attracts a wide range of views;
from supporters who point to potential benefits to opponents with
significant concerns. The GM Science Review published today has been
unique in the way it has considered in detail the interests and concerns
of the public and experts alike. The Panel is inviting comments on its
report over the summer. We particularly want to hear from members of the

"I would like to thank all the panel members for working so hard. I am
delighted that we have been able to explore the full range of views and
expertise to collectively produce this report. I hope that its honest and
unbiased findings will enable debate and decision to be informed by sound
scientific evidence.

"GM. is not a homogeneous technology on which scientists can make blanket
assurances on safety. Applications of GM technology will have to be
considered on a case-by-case basis. We cannot know everything but if we
are paralysed by uncertainty, innovation and progress will be stifled.
The very best science must be brought to bear on the important decisions
that will need to be taken in the future. GM technology must not be
considered in a vacuum, but alongside conventional agricultural and food

Howard Dalton, Chief Scientific Adviser at Defra and panel member, said:

"The deliberations by our panel of experts has produced the best
scientific evaluation of GM crops and their products thus far. Their
careful analysis of the science has left no stone unturned and their work
must be judged on its thoroughness and its balanced account of our
current knowledge. The panel are especially careful to point out where
there are gaps in our knowledge and where there are areas of scientific
uncertainty. The report will enable us to make a sensible evaluation of
the risks and benefits of the technology as highlighted in the Strategy
Unit report and the public debate."

The review has looked in detail at seventeen areas identified by the
general public and the science community. It refers to well over 600
published scientific documents and additional contributions came from the
review website and the open meetings. The Review Panel is chaired by Sir
David King the Chief Scientific Adviser and has members with a wide range
of scientific, industrial, sociological and environmental expertise and views.

A follow up report in the Autumn will consider comments from the public
together with the results of the GM public debate. The Panel will also
consider any further scientific developments including the results of the
GM farm scale evaluations providing they are available. Notes to Editors

1. The Science Review was requested by Agriculture Secretary Margaret
Beckett with the agreement of ministers in the devolved administrations.
The public debate "GMNation?" and the Strategy Unit report on the costs
and benefits of GM crops have been the other strands in the GM dialogue
aimed at engaging the public and assisting the Government with future GM
policy decisions. The Science Review Panel will reconvene in the Autumn
to take account of comments invited on the first report, as well as any
further scientific issues arising from the public debate report. It will
take account of any further significant scientific developments and the
results of the farm scale evaluations providing they are available as
expected. The deadline for comments on this first report is 15 October 2003.

2. The full report, full list of panel members and more information is
available at This is also where people can
submit their comments on the report.


European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
Kleine Wiese 6
D - 38116 Braunschweig

phone:  +49-531-5168746
fax:    +49-531-5168747
mobile: +49-162-1054755
email:  genetnl(at)