application of modern biotechnology to food production presents new
opportunities and challenges for human health. The potential benefits to
the public health sector include altering the nutrient content of foods,
decreasing their allergenic potential, and improving the efficiency of
food production systems. On the other hand, the potential effects on
human health of the consumption of food produced through genetic
modification must be carefully examined. Modern biotechnology must be
thoroughly evaluated if it is to bring about a true improvement in our
way of producing food The tendency to explain all concerns in this area
as a problem of perceptions originating in the consumers incapacity to
understand is simplistic. In stead the consumers right to be concerned
as well as to be informed should be acknowledged.
future developments in this area will focus WHO work in four major
Establishing scientific safety assessment frameworks based on sound
is a need to facilitate the establishment of sound safety and risk
assessment frameworks for foods derived from modern biotechnology. In
addition to providing input to the Codex Intergovernmental Task Force on
Foods Derived from Biotechnology, WHO will develop the principles and
guidelines for addressing emerging issues based on sound science.
Standardising methods for nutritional aspects in safety assessments of
food derived from modern biotechnology.
is a need for an increased focus on nutritional assessments of new foods
derived from modern biotechnology and in fact from novel foods in
general with specific nutritional traits. These types of considerations
are already part of the FAO/WHO Expert Consultations on food derived
from modern biotechnology, but a strengthened effort is needed. This
effort should be coordinated with efforts in other intergovernmental
fora, such as the OECD Task Force on Novel Foods.
Linking risk assessments to risk management and communication.
mechanisms and approaches are urgently needed both at national and at
international level to bridge the outcomes of risk assessments into risk
management and risk communication efforts. New thinking towards
involving consumers and other interested parties already at the planning
stages of risk communication efforts need to be developed. And the
experience gained in this area could be used in other aspects of food
The broader perspective of health and development policy
development of new foods through modern biotechnology has not always
been perceived to be guided by a perspective of "public good."
New products with potential health or production benefits in developing
countries could change this. Such products will need a more holistic
assessment, looking into all aspects of such production changes (health
benefit, nutrition, safety, development and socioeconomical issues, etc.
In preparation of this work there is a need for WHO to strengthen its
collaboration with inter-sectoral partners. Such efforts would entail
technical issues related to such areas as production efficiency and
safety assessments but also more general issues of how foods derived
from modern biotechnology could be made useful in addressing the needs
of developing countries.
World Health Organisation]