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6-regulation: FAO expert consultation recommends guidelines andmethodologies on GE crop monitoring



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TITLE:  Monitoring the environmental effects of GM crops
        FAO expert consultation recommends guidelines and methodologies
SOURCE: FAO, Italy
        http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2005/89259/index.html
DATE:   27 Jan 2005

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Monitoring the environmental effects of GM crops FAO expert consultation
recommends guidelines and methodologies

27 January 2005, Rome - A consultation of experts convened at the UN Food
and Agriculture Organization (FAO), recommended that any responsible
deployment of Genetically Modified (GM) crops needs to comprise the whole
technology development process, from the pre-release risk assessment, to
biosafety considerations and post release monitoring.

Environmental goals must also encompass the maintenance and protection of
basic natural resources such as soil, water and biodiversity. In this way
monitoring could become the key element in generating the necessary
knowledge to protect agro-systems, rural livelihoods and broader ecological
integrity.

Potential hazards associated with GM cropping - according to the scientists
- have all to be placed within the broader context of both positive and
negative impacts that are associated with all agricultural practices.


Involving farmer groups

Environmental organizations, farmer groups and community organizations
should be actively and continuously engaged in this process. These
stakeholders - the workshop agreed - are absolutely intrinsic to the
system.

FAO is ready to facilitate this process along with other agencies and
national and international research centres, encouraging the adoption of
rigorously designed monitoring programmes. Besides FAO and UNEP, the CGIAR
Centres are expected to play an important role in partnership with national
research centres.

The consultation was organized in the light of the controversy and public
concern over Genetic Modifications (GM). FAO asked a group of agricultural
scientists from many parts of the world to provide clear preliminary
guidelines on the most accurate and scientifically sound approach to
monitoring the environmental effects of existing GM crops.


Protecting agrosystems and livelihoods

"FAO's aim is to provide a tool to assist countries in making their own
informed choices on the matter, as well as protect the productivity and
ecological integrity of farming systems" said Ms Louise O. Fresco, FAO
Assistant Director-General of the Agriculture Department.

She added "the need to monitor both the benefits and potential hazards of
released GM crops to the environment is becoming ever more important with
the dramatic increase in the range and scale of their commercial
cultivation, especially in developing countries."

The experts acknowledged that a great deal of data is already available.
What needs to be done is to bring together and coordinate this volume of
often scattered information. They also emphasized that monitoring the
effects of GM crops on the environment is not only necessary but feasible
even with limited resources when it is integrated with the deployment of
these crops.

The experts agreed that it is important to identify the most accurate
existing data. They noted that field and traditional expertise should
become a strong resource in addition to scientific expertise. These data
could be used in indicators to measure the effects of GM crops on the
environment. Significant changes that might cause concern should be
promptly notified. In this regard, a full stakeholder engagement - farmers,
scientists, consumers, public and the private sector and the civil society -
will be necessary and integral to the process.

One of the difficulties in monitoring agriculture is the heterogeneity of
farming systems in the different regions. The group of scientists
recommended that the objective of environmental monitoring of GM crops
should be nested within processes that address broader goals. There would
be a need to adapt any methodology to the specific farming system through a
well-designed process.

Monitoring GM crops will provide information for policies and regulations,
but mainly will give producers informed options in order to allow
technologies to be adopted in a sustainable way.


Contact:
Luisa Guarneri
Information Officer, FAO
luisa.guarneri@fao.org
(+39) 06 570 56350




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