The discovery and application of the transformation technique CRISPR/Cas represented a technical breakthrough for biotechnology. At the same time, the expansion of automation in laboratories, a growing amount of sequence information and easier genome synthesis is leading to the development of qualitatively new genetically modified organisms. New methods and approaches bring new challenges for evaluation concepts if the developed products are to be approved for the market and released into the environment. Part of the Project Genetic Engineering and the Environment (Fachstelle Gentechnik und Umwelt, FGU) is dedicated to horizon scanning new developments in biotechnology, i.e. the search and evaluation of relevant published literature. This enables the identification and analysis of early signs of potential environmental impact resulting from new technical developments and their application in genetic engineering/biotechnology, while taking the precautionary principle into consideration. The FGU also screens social and political discourse and evaluation categories for genome editing techniques as well as synthetic biology in and beyond Europe, which it then compares.
On the one hand, findings from the horizon scanning process serve to provide authorities and scientists with substantiated information and, on the other hand, to make this information available to civil society as well as for public and political discourse in a way that is appropriate for the respective target group.
A project-associated working group (PAG) advises the FGU on its work. It includes civil society and environmental organizations concerned with the consequences of genetic engineering and biotechnology in agricultural systems, seed and food production, environmental and nature conservation. It further includes environmental and genetic engineering scientists. The PAG provides the FGU with input. The FGU carries out the scientific investigation of the issues. The publication of the findings in scientific journals with peer review is planned.
Coordination of the project by Testbiotech e.V., Institute for independent impact assessment of biotechnology
The project is funded by the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) from the UFOPLAN of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, grant number 3519840300
FGU findings from 2017-2020 can be found in the archive