Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE) Minutes of a meeting dated 28th September 2006
“RNA mediated Gene Silencing in GM Plants”
Gene silencing is used to prevent the action of a given gene e.g. flowering or pollen formation. The technique can be used to reduce risks such as horizontal gene transfer or the expression of toxins.
The technique is not limited to the control of GM crops.
ACRE considered a report on the technique of RNA mediated gene silencing. RNA methods can be unstable in that gene silencing may be of variable efficacy in otherwise genetically identical plants and their offspring. ACRE considers that current risk assessment regimes, which include an assessment of stability and its implications, would be adequate. In any case, a pheno-typically unstable plant product would not be commercially viable.
The silencing mechanism is not transferable to other organisms; specifically bacteria and nematodes. Direct harm to humans would require deliberate and complex actions.
Inclusion of GM silencing mechanism in a GM crop could encourage the evolution of some viruses. While possible, ACRE consider this to be a general problem, not specific to GM plants.
There is strong opinion that RNA mediated gene silencing in GM plants does not significantly alter the potential for harm to be done to humans or the environment. This in part is based on a strong conviction that ACRE risk assessment methodologies are already robust.
The report confirms the unpredictable nature of the results of genetic engineering. Current techniques rely on selection of those offspring which retain and express the desired characteristics.