Health and environmental impacts of transgenic crops

The scientific evidence concerning the environmental and health impacts of genetic engineering is still emerging. This chapter briefly summarizes the current state of scientific knowledge on the potential health and environmental risks (Box 17) associated with genetic engineering in food and agriculture, followed by a discussion of the role of international standard setting bodies in harmonizing risk analysis procedures for these products (Box 18). The scientific evidence presented in this chapter relies largely on a recent report from the International Council for Science (ICSU, 2003 – referred to hereafter as ICSU).4 The ICSU report draws on 50 independent scientific assessments carried out by authoritative groups in different parts of the world, including the FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission, the European Commission, the OECD and the national science academies of many countries such as Australia, Brazil, China, France, India, the United Kingdom and the United States. In addition, this chapter draws on recent scientific evaluations from the Nuffield Council on Bioethics (2003 – referred to hereafter as Nuffield Council), the United Kingdom GM Science Review Panel (2003 – referred to hereafter as GM Science Review Panel) and the Royal Society (2003 – referred to hereafter as Royal Society) that were not available when the ICSU report was prepared. There is a substantial degree of consensus within the scientific community on many of the major safety questions concerning transgenic products, but scientists disagree on some issues, and gaps in knowledge remain.

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