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Lords Committee asks: what are the ethical and safety concerns behind GM insect technologies?

What risks do GM insects pose to the environment? What is their long-term effect on ecosystems?

The Lords Science and Technology Committee will next week ask scientists, conservationists and ethics experts these, and other, questions as part of their investigation into GM insect technologies.

On Tuesday 27 October the Committee will hear from scientists at the forefront of GM research, in order to probe the development of insect technologies. The Committee will then explore the ethical and safety concerns surrounding GM insects, by questioning leading figures in bioethics and invertebrate conservation.

Starting at 10.40am, the first set of witnesses to give evidence are Professor Luke Alphey, Head of Arthropod Genetics Group, The Pirbright Institute; Professor Paul Eggleston, Professor of Molecular Entomology, Keele University; and Professor Austin Burt, Professor of Evolutionary Genetics, Imperial College London. 

In the second session of questions, at 11.40am, the Committee will hear from Matt Shardlow, Chief Executive, Buglife, The Invertebrate Conservation Trust; and Professor Jonathan Montgomery, Chair of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics.

Questions that the Committee will ask over the two sessions include:

  • What are the ethical and safety concerns around GM insect technologies?
  • What is the extent of public awareness of this area of science?
  • What might be other applications of this technology beyond disease control and pest management?
  • How valid are concerns around gene transfer, ecosystem damage, the impact on the food chain and the creation of unexpected pathogens?
  • How do concerns surrounding population suppression and population replacement GM insect strategies differ?

The Committee evidence sessions will take place at 10.40am and 11.40am in Committee Room 4A in the House of Lords, on Tuesday 27 October.

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