Workshop Proceeding

Research is needed to help us to better understand the interactions of genetically engineered organisms (GEOs)--organisms whose genetic material has been modified to produce desirable traits--with their surrounding ecosystems. Today, most GEOs are crops that contain one or two gene traits that improve weed and insect control. However, research and testing are underway in a large variety of plants, microorganisms, and animals to introduce a much broader range of traits with potential benefits to farmers, consumers, and other users. The diversity of traits suggests that future GEOs may interact with the environment in different ways than current GEOs. A quandary for researchers is that possible interactions are best studied in natural settings, but current regulations prohibit the release of many experimental GEOs until their likely impact can be established. Therefore, alternate research approaches are needed. This workshop summarizes discussions on the kind of research that can help to understand possible GEO-ecosystem interactions. The workshop was requested by U.S. Geological Survey, which, though not a regulatory agency, advises the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and other agencies responsible for taking care of federal lands.