Living modified organisms contribute to a safer, more secure global food supply but their effects on the environment require continuing scientific investigation.
This was the consensus of a recent OECD/US international conference: Living Modified Organisms and the Environment where some 250 scientists, representing stakeholders from 45 OECD and non-OECD countries, called for more interaction between science and society.
They stressed the importance of addressing the human needs of their countries while at the same time protecting the environment. The conference examined the growing body of knowledge worldwide on the environmental impacts of commercially grown genetically modified crops and identified areas of common understanding as well as issues which have yet tobe resolved.
Rita Colwell, Director of the US National Science Foundation, said that science needs to better understand the relationship between agriculture, ecosystems and GMOs in order to realise the opportunities the technology offers while at the same predicting and preventing risks. OECD Secretary-General Donald Johnston challenged the scientists at the conference to identify and bridge knowledge gaps in order to achieve a balance between opportunity and safety. He emphasised that public dialogue is the prerequisite for the introduction of new technologies.
Reviewing the present trends in commercial transgenic crops, the conference recognised that, in many countries, agriculture is embracing biotechnology.But more scientific knowledge is needed to establish the way in whichecosystems will respond to these developments over the long term.