Environmental Concerns

A number of biotechnology applications are not seen to present any new threats to the environment. That is the case with tissue culture, diagnostics, and market-selected plant breeding. On the other hand, there is fear of potential risks from the release of GMOs into the environment. The potential risks of GMOs on the environment may include increased pesticide residues, genetic pollution, damage to beneficial insects, creation of superweeds and superpests, creation of new viruses and bacteria, and genetic bioinvasion (Table 4.1).

To address environmental concerns, some countries have adopted the following safeguards:

(i) Most current biotechnology applications in tissue culture and micropropagation, diagnostics and vaccines, and marker-assisted plant breeding are subject to existing regulations. They include phytosanitary regulations and plant quarantine, varietal certification of seeds, and veterinary product regulations. These regulations usually conform to international standards, guidelines, or recommendations such as those set by the International Plant Protection Convention or the International Bureau of Epizootics for animal products.

(ii) A number of countries have introduced new requirements and procedures for the environmental release of GMOs. Procedures for hazard identification and risk assessment of GMOs are now well-established in most OECD countries, and in some Asian countries.

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