European Food Safety Authority updates advice on environmental safety of GM maize 1507, says crop unlikely to raise concern for environment with proper measures during cultivation; panel recommends focusing on insecticide resistance in target pests

PARMA, Italy , November 18, 2011 (press release) – The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has updated its scientific advice on the environmental safety of genetically modified maize 1507. The Panel on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) concludes that maize 1507 is unlikely to raise a safety concern for the environment as long as appropriate management measures are implemented during cultivation. The GMO Panel recommends measures to address possible resistance in target pests to the insecticidal protein found in maize 1507 and to reduce the risk of exposure to the plant’s pollen for certain highly sensitive species of non-target butterflies and moths.

The EFSA GMO Panel first carried out a risk assessment for maize 1507 in 2005 and has since published several related scientific opinions on its safety. The Panel recognised the need to update its previous scientific opinions in light of recent advances in methodology and new scientific literature and thus initiated a reassessment of its environmental safety.

Maize 1507 is a genetically modified plant developed to express an insecticidal protein that protects it from certain ‘target’ Lepidoptera pests, for example the European corn borer. EFSA’s GMO Panel considers that the development of resistance in target pests to the insecticidal protein found in maize 1507 could have an adverse effect on the environment. This adverse effect on environment would result from the pest control practices needed to manage insects resistant to maize 1507. Therefore, and in line with its risk assessment from 2005, the Panel makes a series of recommendations to improve the management and monitoring of maize 1507 in certain cultivation conditions.

The GMO Panel also assessed the exposure of ‘non-target’ Lepidoptera insects to the insecticidal protein present in maize 1507 pollen. In the context of an environmental risk assessment for a similar insect-resistant GM maize (maize MON810), the GMO Panel developed a new mathematical model that allowed it to simulate and assess potential adverse effects related to exposure of non-target Lepidoptera insects to GM maize pollen. Recognising that the same mathematical model could be adapted to allow a more accurate evaluation of these potential adverse effects in relation to maize 1507, the Panel initiated a reassessment of the GM plant’s environmental safety. In applying this adapted mathematical model, the Panel found that, in certain cultivation conditions, some species of highly sensitive non-target butterflies and moths may be at risk when exposed to maize 1507 pollen. It therefore makes recommendations for management measures to limit exposure and for monitoring to be carried out to better understand how non-target Lepidoptera insects are affected by this pollen.

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