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Scientists urge caution when releasing engineered organisms into environment

COLUMBUS, Ohio A panel of scientists has recommended a more cautious approach towards releasing genetically engineered organisms (GEOs) into the environment. The panel, assembled by the Ecological Society of America, released its report today in Washington.

Their recommendations includes rigorously analyzing the risks and benefits associated with GEOs as well conducting the research needed to fill in the gaps of the regulations that currently govern these organisms.

The new report on genetically engineered organisms (GEOs), "Genetically engineered organisms and the environment: Current status and recommendations," was compiled by a seven-member panel that included plant and microbial biologists, entomologists, agronomists and fisheries. The group spent the past two-and-a-half years evaluating the ecological effects of current and future uses of GEOs.

In spite of nearly a decade of heated public debate and worry over the safety of GEOs, and the huge growth in funding for developing GEOs, not much attention has been paid to the potential risks these organisms may create once they're released.

"Genetically engineered organisms can play a very positive role in environmental management globally," said Allison Snow, the lead author of the report and a professor of evolution, ecology and organismal biology at Ohio State University. "But the deliberate or inadvertent release of GEOs could also spell ecological trouble under some circumstances."

Snow and her colleagues gathered current scientific data on the state of GEOs, from viruses and other microorganisms to plants to animals.

A "genetically engineered organism" is a living thing that has deliberately been given a characteristic it wouldn't have gotten through the process of normal breeding. For example, about 10 years ago researchers in Hawaii found that inserting genetic material from a virus that nearly decimated the state's papaya plantations into the plant's genome p
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Contact: Allison Snow
Snow.1@osu.edu
614-292-3445
Ohio State University
2-Mar-2004


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