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Researchers develop new approach to identify possible ecological effects of releasing genetically engineered insects

quito population, says David, who is a doctoral student in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior. They explore possible ecological effects during the transitory phase in the short term and steady state phases of the GE mosquito in the long term, David says.

"The population isn't the same the whole time. You do have these transitory phases where the potential effects could be quite different than the effects during the steady state phase," Kaser says.

Many risk assessments only look at the end result. "Our framework really tries to evaluate the entire range of potential effects," he says.

That more comprehensive look is what sets their approach apart from others.

"We think this is a novel and important contribution because many past risk assessments that were just looking at the final population state were missing a lot of really important effects," says Roth, a doctoral student in the Department of Forest Resources. "And that's where we think our framework can really add to identifying effects that could be important throughout this whole process."

As they worked, the researchers not only developed an approach for identifying potential ecological effects of GE insects, and they also found significant knowledge gaps in mosquito ecology.

"While there's an amazing and impressive amount of research that's been done on mosquitoes, there wasn't a whole lot of information about how they might be important ecologically," Kaser says.

In the paper, they had to broaden their scope of ecological research to infer what could happen.

"The idea is that there isn't much info on what happens when you release a GE organism so we drew upon other literature to get at the answer of what happens when you peturb populations," David says.

As GE insects become more common, the researchers say they hope their framework provides guidance that will improve future risk assessments and ensure the safe

Contact: Patty Mattern
University of Minnesota

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