OECD report admits not enough is known about GM crops in tropical climates

Reports published by the chairman and the rapporteurs of a recent conference on GM food safety organised by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) include a call for an international forum on GM foods, similar to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Sir John Krebs, the chairman of the UK’s newly-established Food Standards Agency (see related story), chaired the OECD GM Food Safety conference, which took place in Edinburgh at the end of February (see

related story). He has used his report to call for an international forum on GM foods. Krebs envisages a forum that would provide governments with

expert advice on “the risks and benefits of the new technology” and “to

build a bridge of understanding between technological developments and the

concerns and aspirations of citizens”.

A separate report, written by the conferences’ two official rapporteurs,

suggests that the international forum could undertake “a collaborative and

comparative testing programme on health and environmental issues of GM

technologies, involving all parties – including farmers” (see related story). The rapporteurs’ conclude that there is a “persistent need for some sort of over-arching international initiative … if the global benefits of this technology are

to be maximised and risks minimised”.

Although the conference was primarily interested in GM food safety and not

the environmental impacts of GM crops, the rapporteurs do acknowledge that

“there is still uncertainty over long-term environmental effects, potential

complex ecological interactions and impacts on biodiversity”. Their report

points out that “the impact in tropical zones is particularly uncertain, as

most field trials have been carried out in temperate zones”.

Reviewing the conference, the rapporteurs summarise the areas of agreement and disagreement. One area of agreement was the issue of antibiotic resistance marker genes in GM varieties (see related story). “The continued

use of antibiotic resistance market genes in GM food crops is unnecessary

given the existence of adequate alternatives, and should be phased out,”

states the report (see GMO story in the European section of this edition of edie news).

The rapporteurs’ and chair’s reports were presented to the OECD Council this

week. They will be included in the OECD’s submission to the G8 summit

meeting to take place in Japan in July.

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