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Researchers develop new approach to identify possible ecological effects of releasing genetically engineered insects
Date:11/18/2013

University of Minnesota researchers have developed a new approach for identifying potential environmental effects of deliberate releases of genetically engineered (GE) insects.

The researchers outline their approach in a paper in the journal Ecology and Evolution. The authors include professor of entomology David Andow and Aaron David, Joe Kaser, Amy Morey and Alex Roth four graduate students who received NSF Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeships (IGERT) the National Science Foundation's flagship interdisciplinary training program educating U.S. Ph.D. scientists and engineers.

GE insects hold great promise for significantly changing pest management and fighting insect borne human diseases throughout the world. Before releasing GE insects, scientists, governments and industry must examine the possible ecological effects GE insects could have by doing ecological risk assessments (ERA). University researchers' new approach provides improved guidance for such assessments.

"When new technology is developed, you want to make sure it's safe," says Morey, who is a doctoral student in the Department of Entomology. "You want to know what could happen when you release these novel organisms into the environment."

Because GE insects are such a new technology, there really isn't a standard way of evaluating that yet, she says.

"Our project is trying to get it a little bit further into a standardization -- a framework for how do you go about systematically evaluating a new technology so you're looking at all the sorts of different interactions that could possibly happen," Morey says.

In the paper, the researchers focus on all potential ecological effects whether an effect is adverse or beneficial, says Kaser, who is a doctoral student in the Department of Entomology. They apply their own approach to the Anopheles gambiae mosquito a malaria vector being engineered to suppress the wild mos
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Contact: Patty Mattern
mattern@umn.edu
612-625-6599
University of Minnesota
Source:Eurekalert

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