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Pew report finds GM insects may offer benefits, but clear regulatory oversight is lacking

Washington, DC Researchers are using biotechnology to develop genetically modified (GM) insects for a wide variety of purposes, including fighting insect-borne diseases like malaria and controlling destructive insect agricultural pests, but the federal government lacks a clear regulatory framework for reviewing environmental safety and other issues associated with GM insects, according to Bugs in the System? Issues in the Science and Regulation of Genetically Modified Insects, a new report released today by the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology.

The report provides an overview of current research efforts to apply genetic engineering technology to insects, and looks at the benefits, risks and scientific uncertainties associated with transgenic insects. After examining the strengths and weaknesses of the legal authorities EPA, FDA and USDA could use to conduct a regulatory review, the report finds the major concern regarding regulation is the absence of a clear articulation of how transgenic insects will be regulated. While a number of laws could potentially apply to GM insects, federal regulators have not indicated if they would regulate GM insects, how a regulatory review would be conducted, which agencies would be involved, or how those agencies would coordinate.

"Although it may be several years before scientists are ready to conduct a wide scale release of transgenic insects, the research threatens to outpace regulatory preparedness," said Michael Rodemeyer, executive director of the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology. "The benefits of GM insects could be significant, but the federal government needs to move quickly to clarify how it will provide an adequate review of these insects and the many questions they raise regarding the environment, public health, agriculture and food safety."

Scientists are currently working to genetically modify insects to address important economic and human health concerns. If succ
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Contact: Dan DiFonzo
dandifonzo@pewagbiotech.org
202-347-9044 x 231
Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology
22-Jan-2004


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