SECB Statements on experimental releases as part of NRP 59
The SECB has issued several Statements on the field trials carried out under the NRP 59, concluding by a majority that these experiments pose negligible risk to humans and the environment, and should be authorised.
There were three different applications for the authorisation of genetically modified wheat or of hybrids of genetically modified wheat and the closely related wild grass Aegilops cylindrica. The different wheat strains were genetically modified to give them increased resistance to fungal diseases. In one case, various alleles of the Pm3 gene from wheat were inserted into the wheat variety Bobwhite. Pm3 gives specific resistance to the mildew pathogen. In another case, two quantitative resistance genes from barley were inserted into the wheat variety Frisal. In the third application, hybrids with Aegilops cylindrica were produced. All plants were previously tested in the laboratory and the greenhouse, where they showed increased resistance to mildew. These results were then to be tested in field trials. At the same time, various investigations of biosafety were carried out. The experiments took place in 2008-2010 in Reckenholz (ZH), and in 2009 and 2010 in Pully (VD). Authorisation for the experiments was requested as part of NRP 59, “Benefits and Risks of the Deliberate Release of Genetically Modified Plants”, by the Wheat Consortium, which is composed of several different research groups.
The applications were submitted to the Federal Office for the Environment on 22 February 2007, and approved by decree on 3 September 2007, with various conditions.
The SECB has issued the following Statements on the three applications:
SECB Statement of 20 July 2007 (in German)
In this first, detailed Statement, the SECB evaluated all three applications for possible risks to humans and the environment. It made specific comments on the characterisation of the genetically modified plants, on possible impacts on the environment, and on the (biological) safety of the experiment. A majority of the Committee members concluded that the experiments should be authorised. A minority was against carrying out the experiment, for a variety of reasons that were detailed in the Statement. The SECB’s approval was thus linked to various conditions.
The applicants were asked to submit further information on their applications. The SECB received this information and issued a Statement confirming, again by majority, that the experiments could be carried out.
An appeal was lodged against carrying out field trials at the Pully site. The SECB was requested to give an opinion on the correspondence between the appellant and the applicant. The SECB once again emphasised that the safety of humans and the environment had been ensured and that the experiments could be carried out.
The applicants were requested to submit supplementary information for the coming year of experiments, including information on a new experimental procedure. The SECB approved the continuation of the experiments.
The SECB approved carrying out the experiments, including an amendment requested by the applicants.