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.