Risks and Benefits in the Use of LMOs

Public concerns about the use of LMOs lie in four major areas: food safety, the environment, socio-economic and ethical issues. First, in relation to food safety, there are concerns about assessing the risks of genetically modified (GM) foods to human health and understanding potential benefits of new GM foods to consumers. Secondly, in relation to environmental effects, the concerns relate to assessing the risks and benefits of releasing LMOs into the environment and the effects such releases may have on the environment. These may be direct effects, such as on biodiversity, or indirect, through changing agricultural practices that affect the environment. LMOs released for agricultural purposes may be plants, trees, livestock, fish and/or microorganisms.

Given the rapid pace of new developments in agricultural biotechnology, many consumers are seeking further information about the potential effects of biotechnology on their food and their environment. The media have sensed that this is an issue high in public consciousness and are actively promoting widespread debate on how we should best use the discoveries of modern genetics. This is one of the most important public debates of the new millennium, because its resolution will have global implications for food and raw material production for the rest of this century (Johnson, 2000).

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