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Objective

Genetically engineered (GE) plants have been widely used in agriculture for the last 25 years.  However, national policies and international agreements have mandated that these plants be subject to environmental risk assessment (ERA) prior to their release in the environment.  In this context, the ILSI Research Foundation supports analytical science to enhance frameworks for ERA of GE plants. Building from a foundation in problem formulation, efforts have explored ERA for new and emerging technologies used in GE plants, such as RNA interference as well as ERA under low exposure scenarios and non-target organism assessment.

Collaborators & Partners

Kenya National Biosafety Authority, USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

Areas of Focus

The ILSI Research Foundation is focused on the following activities related to environmental risk assessment (ERA) of genetically engineered (GE) crops:

Data Transportability

To facilitate better planning for resource-intensive field trials of experimental genetically engineered plants, the ILSI Research Foundation has developed a framework that describes how agro-climatic zones can be used to demonstrate sufficient similarity between trial locations in different countries, so that field trial data can be used across geographies.

e-Learning Courses

Self-paced, interactive e-Learning courses developed by the ILSI Research Foundation serve as complementary resource to in-person training workshops.

GM Crop Database

The ILSI Research Foundation maintains an internationally recognized database that provides safety-related information about regulatory evaluations and approvals of genetically engineered plants and foods.

Resources

Newsletters

Find out about the work being done by the ILSI Research Foundation by reading our monthly e-newsletter.

e-Learning

e-Learning courses have been developed by the ILSI Research Foundation that focus on environmental risk assessment.

Proposed Criteria for Identifying GE Crop Plants That Pose a Low or Negligible Risk to the Environment Under Conditions of Low-Level Presence in Seed

The low-level presence (LLP) of genetically engineered (GE) seeds that have been approved in the country of origin but not the country of import presents challenges for regulators in both seed importing and exporting countries, as well as for the international seed trade and the farmers who rely on it.

Read more

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Legacy Work

Environmental Impacts of Genetically Engineered Crops

Because it is not possible to measure, monitor and test every organism in every environment, surrogate species play an important role in evaluating the potential for adverse environmental impacts.  This includes evaluations of the potential effects of genetically engineered (GE) crops on non-target organisms (NTOs). Surrogate species must be selected appropriately to represent key taxonomic or functional groups and testing must be done with sufficient rigor to ensure that tests address the potential impact being investigated.

The ILSI Research Foundation has facilitated workshops and publications addressing the proper use of surrogate species for testing in support of environmental risk assessment of GE crops.

In 2016, the Research Foundation produced a peer-reviewed publication which provides an overview of the history of regulatory approaches to NTO impact assessments, analyzes current regulatory practices, and proposes recommendations to improve the predictive value and efficiency of NTO testing as well as facilitating the transportability of existing datasets across geographies and regulatory regimes.

Environmental Risk Assessment of RNAi Plants

RNA interference, or RNAi, refers to a set of biological processes that make use of conserved cellular machinery to silence genes. The use of RNAi to develop plants with desirable traits has fueled a discussion about the environmental safety of the technology.

The ILSI Research Foundation organized a series of workshops to help better clarify the relevant safety considerations and risk assessment methodologies for environmental risk assessment of plants with RNAi traits. This includes a scientific session at the 13th International Symposium for the Biosafety of Genetically Modified Organisms (ISBGMO) which resulted in the publication of a peer reviewed paper that identifies research areas that may be informative for future environmental risk assessments of these plants, with a particular focus on non-target organism assessment