Objective

Developing and applying sound science to the environmental risk assessment (ERA) of biotechnologies is crucial for safely realizing their contributions to human health and sustainable production of food, fuel, and fiber. Whether it be through improving systematic approaches to inform understanding of plausible risks associated with the use of gene drive strategies or working to maximize the value of data, the Agriculture & Food Systems Institute continues its longstanding commitment to serve as a scientific resource for governments, academic institutions, and private sector organizations.

Collaborators & Partners

USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH), New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and the Government of Australia

Current Actvity

The Agriculture & Food Systems Institute's active programs related to environmental risk assessment (ERA) include:

Data Transportability for Field Trial Research

Confined field trials (CFTs) are conducted to inform environmental risk assessments that are required by regulatory authorities before genetically engineered crops can be approved and released for cultivation. Many countries expect CFTs to be conducted as a matter of course, even if satisfactory data are already available from trials conducted elsewhere. The primary variable that differentiates CFT locations is agroclimate, which means that data from trials cultivated in like agroclimates should be considered relevant and sufficient to satisfy regulatory requirements, irrespective of the country where the CFTs are conducted.

ERA for the Use of Gene Drive

According to the World Health Organization’s 2017 World Malaria Report, an estimated 216 million cases of malaria occurred worldwide in 2016, with 90% of this total concentrated in the African region. Alarmingly, and despite an increased public health focus on the elimination of malaria, it is becoming clear that many countries will not be able to achieve this goal without considering novel management approaches. One control strategy in the early stages of development is the use of gene drive mechanisms to suppress or replace vector mosquito populations.

Past Work

The Agriculture & Food Systems Institute's concluded projects in the area of environmental risk assessment include:

Resources

Newsletter

Find out about the work we are doing by reading our monthly newsletter.

eLearning

The Agriculture & Food Systems Institute has developed eLearning courses that focus on environmental risk assessment.

SAARC Regional Expert Consultation Meeting on the Progress and Prospects of Agricultural Biotechnology and Biosafety in South Asia

The Agriculture & Food Systems Institute’s South Asia Biosafety Program and the SAARC Agriculture Center (SAC) co-organized the SAARC Regional Expert Consultation Meeting on the Progress and Prospects of Agricultural Biotechnology and Biosafety in South Asia to share information on the current status of agricultural biotechnology and biosafety regulations in the region.

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Gene Drive Modeling Conference

With support from the USDA NIFA Biotechnology Risk Assessment Research Grants Program, the Agriculture & Food Systems Institute organized this conference to bring together regulators, risk assessors, modelers, and biologists who understand gene drive technology to discuss the applicability of mathematical models for the environmental risk assessment of gene drive organisms.

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Informing Risk Assessment with the Mosquito Gene Drive Explorer (MGDrivE)

As part of the Agriculture & Food Systems Institute’s Gene Drive Modeling Conference Seminar Series, this presentation by Dr. John Marshall and Ms. Valeri Vasquez introduced the Mosquito Gene Drive Explorer framework, including assumptions, uncertainties, and planned modifications for agricultural pests.

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Making Connections: Interdisciplinary Science to Solve Real World Problems

Dr. Morven McLean, Executive Director, shared some examples of how the Agriculture & Food Systems Institute’s commitment to interdisciplinary science has opened up opportunities for the organization to extend its work.

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Biosafety Regulations for Biotech Researchers and Biosafety Practitioners

The Agriculture & Food Systems Institute’s South Asia Biosafety Program, in collaboration with Chattogram Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, organized a capacity building biosafety seminar in Bangladesh for regional scientists and academics.

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Problem Formulation for Gene Drive Mosquitoes Designed to Reduce Malaria Transmission in Africa: Results from Four Regional Consultations 2016–2018

This summary publication captures the findings from four African consultations organized by the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) to identify risk hypotheses and data needs for future environmental risk assessment of gene drives in the mosquito Anopheles gambiae.

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Agricultural Biotechnology and Biosafety in South Asia: Progress and Prospects

This book contains the papers and proceedings of the SAARC Regional Consultative Meeting on the Progress and Prospects of Agricultural Biotechnology and Biosafety in South Asia, which took place on June 18- 20, 2019 in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

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OECD Consensus Document of the Biology of Mosquito Aedes aegypti

Volume 8 of the series Safety Assessment of Transgenic Organisms in the Environment contains the first OECD biosafety consensus document to deal with the biology of an insect, the mosquito Aedes aegypti.

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Capacities for the Risk Assessment of GMOs: Challenges to Build Sustainable Systems

The need for functional risk assessment bodies in general, and in the biosafety field in particular, demands continued efforts and commitment from regulatory agencies, if results that are sustainable in time are to be achieved. Dr. Carmen Vicién, Agriculture & Food Systems Institute in-country partner, was a co-author of this paper, which references the Agriculture & Food Systems Institute’s involvement in the Partnership for Biosafety Risk Assessment and Regulation in Paraguay and the use of Agriculture & Food Systems Institute eLearning courses in Kenya.

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Results from the Workshop “Problem Formulation for the Use of Gene Drive in Mosquitoes”

Reducing the incidence of malaria has been a public health priority for nearly a century. However, before new technologies and associated vector control strategies  can be developed and exploited, it will be necessary to understand and assess the likelihood of any potential harms to humans or the environment. To begin this process, the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health and the Agriculture & Food Systems Institute organized an expert workshop to consider the potential risks related to the use of gene drives in Anopheles gambiae for malaria control in Africa.

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