Welcome to the 10th International Symposium on the Biosafety of GMOs in New Zealand. We have an exciting programme of international speakers and workshops focusing on recent developments in the science supporting biosafety research and the state of the art of risk assessment itself. We will be reviewing current scientific knowledge on GMOs and how it can be used to reach conclusions on risks in Session 1. We will focus on current research studying impacts of GMOs in relation to their fitness and invasiveness and due to pest, disease and environmental stress tolerance in sessions 2 and 3. In addition studies of impacts of GMOs on complex soil ecosystems will be discussed in Session 5. The biosafety issues associated with GM domestic animals, fish and insects will be discussed in Session 4. Methods for restricting gene flow from GM crops are being developed, especially for GMOs with higher risk potential. These will be discussed in session 7 and a workshop will discuss managing gene flow in experimental field trials. The scientific rationale and methods of pre and post market environmental monitoring of GMOs will be discussed in the final session.
Methods of regulating GMOs and the scientific basis for these regulations vary around the world. In a joint session with OECD and in a workshop we will review these approaches and discuss how regulation can be brought more in line with scientific requirements. In addition we will hold a workshop reviewing our approaches to environmental risk assessment, considering methods to assess impacts on different receiving environments and effects of long term exposure.
Risk communication is an important element in risk analysis and we will hold a workshop exploring how information on the biosafety of GMOs can be communicated to a wider audience and to decision makers. In addition we will hold a public forum where scientists will present short reviews and can then be questioned or receive comments from members of the public.
Our Programme Chair, Jeremy Sweet has spent the last 17 years conducting research on the risk assessment of GMOs. He was coordinator of the UK BRIGHT project and the the European Science Foundation GMO programme. He is a coordinator of the EU SIGMEA project which is bringing together data on gene fl ow and gene impacts as well as a participant in the EU COEXTRA programme. He is currently vice-chairman of the EFSA GMO panel and has served as an advisor on GMOs to the European Commission, Danish parliament, UK government, FAO and scientific organisations in several other countries.