Means and ends of effective global risk assessments for genetic pest management

Turner, G., C. Beech and L. Roda,  BMC Proceedings,  12:13. 2018.

The development and use of genetic technologies is regulated by countries according to their national laws and governance structures. Legal frameworks require comprehensive technical evidence to be submitted by an applicant on the biology of the organism, its safety to human, animal health and the environment in which it will be released. Some countries also require information on socio-economic and trade impacts. One of the key elements that assists decision-making under those legal frameworks is the use of risk assessments. The risk assessment paradigm of problem formulation based on risk hypothesis, and the assessment of plausible scientific pathways leading to potential environmental and human harms being realised, has been used widely to assess potential risks of genetic technologies to human health and the environment, from crops to mosquitoes. This paper uses the case study of a genetically modified self-limiting olive fly (Bactrocera oleae) for a first deliberate release in Spain to examine the regulatory processes and stakeholders involved in the assessment of risk. It is anticipated that existing risk assessment frameworks are equally applicable to gene drive technologies that may spread and persist in the environment and cross-national borders, but it is the governance structures surrounding the involvement of civil society in regulatory processes that must be administered in a more transparent and defined manner.