volves the transfer of traits which are controlled by several interacting genes and often occurs without specific knowledge of which genes and gene products are involved. Therefore, some of the plants produced by this method could have unanticipated properties. With transgenic methods, there is often more knowledge about the genes and gene products being transferred, but diverse traits and genes from unrelated organisms can be transferred so some specific products could have unique properties. Because both methods have the potential to produce organisms of high or low risk, the committee agrees that the properties of a genetically modified organism should be the focus of risk assessments, not the process by which it was produced (point 3).

The committee also agrees with points 1 and 2 in the sense that the potential hazards and risks associated with the organisms produced by conventional and transgenic methods fall into the same general categories. As this report discusses, toxicity, allergenicity, effects of gene flow, development of resistant pests, and effects on non-target species are concerns for both conventional and transgenic pest-protected plants. In this regard, the committee found no strict dichotomy between, or new categories of, the health and environmental risks that might be posed by transgenic and conventional pest-protected plants (points 1 and 2), and recognizes that the magnitude of risk varies on a product by product basis (point 3).

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.

This report expands on the 1987 principles by describing various methods of both conventional and transgenic plant breeding, and their potential consequences.


Conventional pest-protected plants have substantially improved plant health and agricultural productivity and have often lessened the need for chemical pesticides. Transgenic pest-protected plants have the potential to make similar contributions, as has already been documented with transgenic pest-protected cotton (section 1.5.5). Human health and environmental benefits could arise from reductions in the application of chemical pesticides resulting from the commercial production of certain transgenic pest-protected plants. However, the relative risks and benefits will depend on the particular transgenic pest-protected plant in question.

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