OOS 4-4 - GM organisms and wildlands:  Genes will flow, so what should managers know?

Monday, August 8, 2011: 2:30 PM
14, Austin Convention Center
David E. Harry, Department of Forestry, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR and Richard Cronn, Pacific Northwest Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Corvallis, OR

Genetically modified (GM) plants have become increasingly abundant in US agriculture, especially for crops such as corn, soybeans, and cotton.  New varieties of these crops periodically receive regulatory approvals and are subsequently commercialized, most with relatively little fanfare.  Meanwhile, GM varieties of other plants are in various stages of development and evaluation by regulatory agencies such as APHIS, EPA, and FDA.  Examples of unintended movement and establishment of GM varieties, or their offspring, are increasingly being scrutinized by the public, by regulatory agencies, and by the court system.  Recent examples include herbicide tolerant alfalfa, sugar beets, and bentgrass.  Examples such as these demonstrate that preventing unintended gene flow is challenging at best, and in many instances, simply cannot be prevented completely.  As new GM organisms are released, some will inevitably move beyond the confines of agricultural fields and into nearby wildlands.  Already, wildland professionals have found themselves dealing with management decisions involving GM organisms on public lands.  Such situations are bound to become more frequent in years to come. In this talk, we provide an overview of  various stages in the developmental pipeline through which GM plants travel from research to commercial release.  Drawing on examples from published studies, we illustrate how the biosafety and overall environmental impacts of GM organisms have been addressed.  Finally, we examine how findings from such studies can help guide wildland managers as they consider potential responses if or when impacts from GM organisms affect the wildlands in their charge. 


While scientific assessments have produced a wealth of knowledge and understanding, interpreting these findings in terms of a social, political, economic, and legal framework is yet more challenging.  Wildland managers should consider becoming better informed about the issues surrounding GM organisms to prepare themselves for a rapidly approaching future. 

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