Public Release:  Opportunities and risks of genetically modified food

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

In its new publication, the Senate commission deals with issues concerning the objectives, application and legal framework of green genetic engineering. It comments on conceivable risks resulting from the cultivation and consumption of genetically modified plants or food and refers to safety precautions to protect the consumer. The statement focuses on food from transgenic plants. Animal food is to be dealt with at a later point in a separate publication.

The statement has been coordinated with the Senate commission on food safety and is to appear as a bilingual publication in German and English.

For thousands of years, human beings have been cultivating useful plants with the aim of achieving higher and more predictable yields with certain quality and processing qualities. Here, genetic methods are particularly beneficial, for with their aid, hereditary matter from organisms of different species can also be transferred to certain breeds to encourage the development of desired properties. In comparison with conventional varieties, transgenic useful plants display considerable advantages. They are resistant to pests and diseases, have an improved herbicide tolerance and also thrive in unfavourable environmental conditions. And food with physiologically important contents can be produced more efficiently with transgenic micro-organisms. Micro-organisms of this kind are employed as producers of metabolic products and enzymes and as fermentation aids.

Biologically modified food has to fulfil the same safety requirements as traditional products. So potential risks have to be identified and assessed at an early stage. In this context, the Senate commission recommends sticking to the tried-and-tested regulations on tests stipulated in the law on genetic engineering and food and urging for a uniform implementation of national and European guidelines supplemented by provisions on seed for animal feed and food. Only with the approval of the public at large can the food industry benefit from genetic engineering methods in a responsible way. This is why the commission is calling for a constructive dialogue between scientists and consumers.

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Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft Gentechnik und Lebensmittel - Genetic Engineering and Food Senate commission on genetic research Statement 3 WILEY-VCH Verlagsgesellschaft, Weinheim, 2001, 82 pp., DM 38.92

Editorial offices note: Editorial offices can request a free-of-charge copy of the statement "Genetic Engineering and Food" from the Press and Public Relations Office of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Kennedyallee 40, D-53 175 Bonn, Germany. Tel: 49-228-885-2210. Fax: 49-228-885-2180. Email: nina.gotthardt@dfg.de. The complete text of the statement can be called up on the DFG Internet pages at the address http://www.dfg.de/aktuell/publikationen.html..

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