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Crop Biotech Update

New Approach to Identify Ecological Effects of Releasing GE Insects

November 20, 2013

University of Minnesota (UM) researchers have developed a new approach to identify potential environmental effects of deliberate releases of genetically engineered (GE) insects. GE insects hold great promise for significantly changing pest management and fighting insect borne human diseases throughout the world. Before releasing GE insects, scientists, governments and industry must examine the possible ecological effects GE insects could have by doing ecological risk assessments (ERA). This new approach provides improved guidance for such assessments.

The researchers focus on all potential ecological effects whether an effect is adverse or beneficial. They apply their own approach to the Anopheles gambiae mosquito – a malaria vector being engineered to suppress the wild mosquito population. They will also explore possible ecological effects during the transitory phase in the short term and steady state phases of the GE mosquito in the long term. While other risk assessments only look at the results, the UM team's framework evaluates the entire range of potential effects.

The researchers outline their approach in a paper in the journal Ecology and Evolution (DOI: 10.1002/ece3.737). For more information, read the UM news release available at