Genetically modified microorganisms (GMMs) are being designed for use in the environment. The deliberate release of GMMs (eg biofertilisers and bio-pesticide) is regulated to ensure that the risk of hazardous consequences is kept to a minimum.
Specific genes can be used as markers for monitoring of bacterial survival or as reporters for montitoring gene expression (activity). There are a variety of specific marker and reporter genes being developed; each with particular advantages and disadvantages.
Marker techniques provide significant advantages for risk assessment studies in comparison with traditional methodologies and, when used in combination with other approaches, provide information which is essential for risk assessment of GMMs.
This information arises directly from tracking of GMMS in dedicated risk assessment studies but also through more fundamental studies designed to increase our understanding of microbial ecology.
It is necessary to have closer harmony of European Community efforts with national efforts regarding the rational basis of regulation of GMMs intended for release into nature; especially since marker genes and monitoring methods vary widely between different countries and even between different laboratories within the same country. Proper risk assessment of GMMs is dependent on the methodologies available for monitoring of released strains. A concerted evaluation of current and upcoming detection systems will provide the basis for development of standardised tests for assessment of the risk to humans and to the environment upon release.
The goal of this concerted action is to enable key players within the European Union to interact within a common framework of proposal actions, for symposia and workshops concerning the use of marker genes and reporter genes in microbial ecology.
This concertation will be particularly valuable for relay of information between the academic groups and the regulatory authorities. This concerted action fits the Biotechnology programme objectives under "Biosafety", sections 7.2.1, 7.2.2 and 7.2.3.