Strong safeguards in place for research involving genetically modified microorganisms and genetically modified organisms2016-05-04
Use of both genetically modified microorganisms (GMM) and genetically modified organisms (GMO) (including their cultivation, storage, transport, destruction etc.) in Lithuania is only permitted where special measures are in place limiting their contact with the population and the environment. The issue whether or not even such a limited use for practical research purposes is risk free, whether it is covered by sufficient number of regulations was discussed today, at the seminar run jointly by the Ministry of Environment and Vilnius University.
According to Kęstutis Trečiokas, the Minister of Environment, “The public must know that any research on both GMM and GMO, based on latest technologies, are safely conducted at the laboratories, that they pose no risk to either environment, or public health. As the surveys run by the Ministry a few years ago suggest, the public lack information on GMO in general. This topic is therefore characterised by a number of myths and rumours”.
Here in Lithuania, limited use of both GMM and GMO is governed by the Law on Genetically Modified Organisms, and the procedure governing limited use of genetically modified microorganisms in the Republic of Lithuania, as approved by the Minister of Environment. In 2016, this procedure will be put to a review, in light of the practices of the other EU Member States. Both Bernadette Murray, GMO expert at the Environmental Protection Agency of Ireland, and Fred Wassenaar, expert at the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment have shared their experience on regulation of limited use of both GMM and GMO with the attendants at the seminar in Ireland and the Netherlands respectively.
According to the information available to the Ministry of Environment, there are 14 institutions engaged in research involving both GMM and GMO, including private limited liability companies: Thermo Fisher Scientific Baltics, Teva Sicor Biotech, Nomads, Baltymas, Biotechpharma and Profarma, Institutes of Biotechnology and Biochemistry at Vilnius University, State research institutes: Centre for Innovative Medicine, the Nature Research Centre and the Center for Physical Sciences and Technology, the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences, and Institutes of Agriculture and Horticulture at the Lithuanian Research Centre for Agriculture and Forestry.
Laboratories at the above institutions conducting genetic modifications are subject to strong safeguards and restrictive measures. For the most part, the research concerns development of GMM stems, in order to produce target proteins available for use in research and industry. Activities of these institutions are monitored by Vilnius Regional Environmental Protection Department at the Ministry of Environment.