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Checkbiotech: AUB professor weighs pros and cons of GMO
Posted by: DR. RAUPP ; madora (IP Logged)
Date: March 05, 2005 08:46AM ; ;

While the positives and negatives of genetically modified organisms (GMO)
are still being debated, the public and private sectors in Lebanon are in
the process of defining their positions regarding the foodstuff, March 2005
by Nada Bakri .

American University of Beirut (AUB) biology professor Rabih Talhouk said:
"In order to prevent harm to the environment and consumers, we have to be
able to manage the risks of introducing GMOs in Lebanon, which is becoming a
major player in the world of economy, and the economy of agriculture

Talhouk spoke during a workshop on risk assessment and risk management of
GMOs on Wednesday at AUB as part of an Initiative on Biodiversity Studies in
Arid Regions (Ibsar), in collaboration with the Environment Ministry to
develop a National Biosafety Framework (NBF).

Participants in the workshop included representatives from the Environment,
Agriculture, and Economy and Trade Ministries ; consumer rights groups,
environmental NGOs, farmers' associations, universities and the food

Talhouk explained that the objectives of the workshop were to introduce the
Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and risk management as well as to introduce
risk assessment concepts and give a general overview of risk management.

The workshop was further aimed at preparing stakeholders to envision risk
assessment protocols and procedures, and visualize applicability through the
presentation of case studies.

Talhouk said: "The advantage of GMOs is that we can produce better seeds,
like corn for example, that would yield higher yield per a certain planted
area, so our agriculture can be more efficient as we would hopefully use
less chemicals and less insecticides because now we have genetically
engineered plants that can fight insects on their own."

The disadvantage, he explained, is that scientists could be creating plants
the outcomes of which - in the long run - are still unknown to genetic

"Are we producing super plants resistant to insects?" Talhouk asked. "And
what would insects do in response? Develop a super insect by evolution? If
so we will be faced with an insect that can't be defeated, and a genetically
modified plant spreading all over."

He added: "On a human level, the situation might be much similar to the case
of asbestos, which proved later on to be toxic for human beings."

"The developing countries are faced with having to take such decisions when
they have very low capacity building to deal with GMOs. Thus they have to
educate themselves and catch up with the technology to be able to take a
position," he added.


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