on transgenic plants and regulation, Genetically Modified Pest-Protected Plants: Science and Regulation (National Academy Press, Washington, DC), many of the recommendations were for research to determine more precisely the potential of such crops to harm either human health or the environment. Although the report was careful to say that there is no strict dichotomy between the health and environmental risks that might be posed by transgenic and conventional pest-protected plants, the committee acknowledged that much is still not known about transgenic crops. 1
Against that backdrop, on July 13-14, 2000, the National Research Council held a workshop on Ecological Monitoring of Genetically Modified Crops. As the title suggests, the workshop specifically excluded monitoring aimed at detecting effects on human health. Its focus was on monitoring for effects that genetically modified crops might have on the surrounding ecosystems, including plants, animals, and microorganisms. The purpose was to lay out the issues surrounding such monitoring, to describe what was known, and to identify what needed further attention.
After 2 days of presentations and discussion, numerous workshop participants expressed the opinion that ecological monitoring of genetically engineered crops is warranted, and they discussed in detail many of the scientific and policy issues that will influence the success or failure of such monitoring. The following is a summary and synthesis of the presentations and discussions in that workshop.
1 The specific focus of the report was crops, such as Bt corn, that have been modified to resist pests, but it noted that many of its conclusions and recommendations applied to other types of genetically modified crops.