No joy for RCEP on risk assessment proposals for GMOs

The Government has rejected advice from the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (RCEP) that a risk assessment system modelled on that used in the chemical industry should be applied to all proposals to release genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to the environment.1

The RCEP itself put forward a system, GENHAZ, for use in appraising the risks of GMO releases in a report issued in 1991, as a follow-up to its 1990 report on regulation of GMO releases. The Government responded to the latter in July (ENDS Report 222, pp 38-39 ).

The RCEP urged that GENHAZ be tested on several real proposals to release GMOs, and then adopted as a formal procedure in the new regulatory system and applied to all releases.

The Government has responded to the extent of funding two studies in which GENHAZ, along with other methods of hazard analysis and risk assessment, have been tested on a variety of GMO release proposals. It has promised a further response to the RCEP once these are completed.

In its preliminary response, however, it says that integrating GENHAZ into the existing procedures for assessing GMO releases would pose difficulties. Estimating the risks posed by GMOs is more a question of qualitative evaluation because of the complexities of the environment, it says, than the quantitative analysis used in process industries.

The Government also dislikes the idea of using a standard methodology for releases which pose different degrees of risk. Most GMO releases to date have been of low risk, and the regulatory scheme should reflect this and avoid placing "unnecessary and inappropriate regulatory burdens" on business.

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