same general categories. As this report discusses, toxicity, allergencity, effects of gene flow, development of resistant pests, and effects on nontarget species are concerns for both conventional and transgenic pest-protected plants.
The committee agrees with the 1987 NAS principles in that the magnitude of quantitative risk does not depend on the genetic-modification process. It depends on the new genes that are expressed in the plant. End points of risk (such as illness in humans and declines in nontarget species) can be the same regardless of whether a specific new gene was transferred by conventional or transgenic methods. For example, if the same alkaloid gene is transferred by sexual hybridization or Agrobacterium-mediated insertion, the risk should be similar. If a gene coding for a novel trait is transferred by transgenic methods, but cannot be transferred by conventional methods, it is the expressed trait that requires scrutiny, not the method of transfer. In summary,
The present committee found the three general principles to be valid within the scope of issues considered by the 1987 paper, and the present report further clarifies and expands on these principles.
Throughout the report, the committee expands on the 1987 principles by describing various methods of both conventional and transgenic plant breeding, and their potential consequences. The greater diversity of genes that can be transferred by transgenic methods, their enhanced effectiveness, and the ability to insert the same gene into many cultivated species have led to concerns about transgenic crops. Does the potential of transgenic methods to expand on the diversity of transferred genes mean that there is a greater chance for unintended risks from transgenic plants than those from conventionally bred plants? That question has been the subject of considerable debate and draws the question away from specific products. Some transgenic breeding results in pest-protective traits that are phenotypically indistinguishable from those conferred by conventional methods. In addition, transgenic methods are based on more complete knowledge of the genes that are being transferred into cultivated plants. In other cases, however, transgenic pest-protection traits may result in plants having new phenotypes, such as novel plant-produced toxins that could potentially affect human or animal health, nontarget organisms, or the weediness of crop relatives. Transgenic methods can also introduce extraneous traits when they involve marker genes, such as antibiotic resistance genes.
An up-to-date assessment of potential problems and advantages of transgenic methods is warranted (see section ES.2). Transgenic methods can improve the precision of plant breeding and lead to many advantages