Evaluation and assessment of GMOs in the aquatic environment

Considering the growth of the human population, the future food supply remains one of the greatest challenge of our society. To increase food production more efficient agricultural technologies need to be developed, while one aspect is the processing of genetically modified (GM) crops, which however, is under considerable debate due to various reasons. This debate will continue especially as just recently the European affairs ministers authorized a new GM crop, i.e. TC1507 corn, for application in Europe.

Before the introduction of a new GM crop an environmental risk assessment (ERA) on case-by-case basis is required. Therefore, ecologically oriented concepts to assess for the exposure and potential hazard associated with the use of GM crops are prerequisites for a well-founded regulatory decisions. The concepts and methods used for this purpose must comply with the state of science as well as the specific characteristics of GM crops.
However, the ecotoxicological toolbox for the environmental risks were developed to assess classical chemical stressors and were not designed to cope with the inherent properties of GM crops. Among the most important challenges in this context are, the development of test methods that allow for an ecotoxicological assessment of the uptake of the plants and their toxins with the food as well as the limited ability to perform dose-response tests with GMOs.
While a first step in this direction was successfully implemented for the terrestrial ERA, the assessment of possible effects of GMO crops on aquatic ecosystems is underdeveloped. To close this gap and provide a first step to a scientifically sound basis for policy decision making, the present project was launched by the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation. We aim at identifying the most important exposure path and the risk for aquatic ecosystems that may receive plant residues from GM crops.