GMOs contain greater theoretical risk of extinction, say US scientists

June 20, 2002

Brussels, 19 June 2002

The introduction of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into wild animal populations has a greater theoretical risk of extinction of natural species than previously thought, according to two scientists working at a US university.

The warning from William Muir and Richard Howard, both professors at the USA's Purdue University, will add to the current debate in Europe about genetic modification technology.

They used computer modelling and statistical analysis to research the hypothetical risk of mixing GMOs with wild populations. Their work, which identifies three new scenarios in which the introduction of GMOs could lead to the death of a natural species, shows the risk is higher than was previously thought.

Mr Muir, a professor of animal sciences, said: 'In the broadest sense, this research tells one how to do risk assessment and what GMOs need further containment.'

In one scenario, researchers found that a release of larger fish, which had a higher mating success but shorter life-spans, could drive a wild population to extinction in less than 40 generations.

Another scenario examined genetic modification which increases the size of male fish, with the result that they find more mates and live longer, but also become less fertile. The predicted result of this is that the wild population would become extinct in less than 20 generations.

The researchers also found scenarios in which the introduced gene could spread through the population but not reduce the overall population size. Mr Howard, who is professor of biology, said: 'This invasion risk is an unknown in assessing the overall risk. Given the biology, all we can say is that the gene would increase in the population. We don't know if that would cause a problem or not.'

The Purdue University research is part of an ongoing effort by the university and the US department of agriculture's Biotechnology Risk Assessment programme to assess the risks of biotechnology.

'Consumer confidence in the use of transgenic technology will only happen if there is a thorough, unbiased examination of the risks,' said Professor Muir.

CORDIS RTD-NEWS/© European Communities, 2001

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

James Fryer illustration (27 July 2017)

It is not Luddism to be cautious about destroying an academic publishing industry that has served us well, says Marilyn Deegan

Jeffrey Beall, associate professor and librarian at the University of Colorado Denver

Creator of controversial predatory journals blacklist says some peers are failing to warn of dangers of disreputable publishers

Hand squeezing stress ball
Working 55 hours per week, the loss of research periods, slashed pensions, increased bureaucracy, tiny budgets and declining standards have finally forced Michael Edwards out
Kayaker and jet skiiers

Nazima Kadir’s social circle reveals a range of alternative careers for would-be scholars, and often with better rewards than academia

hole in ground

‘Drastic action’ required to fix multibillion-pound shortfall in Universities Superannuation Scheme, expert warns