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David Andow – Ecological and evolutionary perspectives on genetic engineering | GES Colloquium

February 6 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

Virtual Event

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Ecological and evolutionary perspectives on genetic engineering

David Andow, PhD,  Professor and Department Head, Applied Ecology, NC State University | Profile | @NCStateAEC

Ecological and evolutionary perspectives have greatly influenced the development of genetic engineering as exemplified by significant events from history.

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Ecological and evolutionary perspectives have greatly influenced the development of genetic engineering throughout its relatively recent history. I will focus my discussion on key events during the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, many of which reverberate today. By 1980, it was clear that commercial applications of genetic engineering would be released into the environment, but it was not clear what organisms would be released. Generic environmental safety arguments flourished, but ecological and evolutionary critiques torpedoed these, and a careful assessment of likely genetically modified organisms (GMOs) prevailed. These resulted in the case-by-case approach to the risks of GMOs that persists today. In the US, it is enshrined in the 1986 Coordinated Framework.

At that time, the focus was on GM microbes, such as ice-minus bacteria and the endophytic bacterium, Clavibacter xyli. Rapid developments in plant transformation, especially maize, completely upended the industry, and in the 1990s, ecological risk assessment shifted accordingly. The exponential increase in the number of releases of GM plants stressed the case-by-case approach, and it was necessary for ecological considerations to address the question of what constitutes a novel case that would require more oversight versus a case similar to one already evaluated. This was also an important contributor to the reopening of non-target evaluations and provided an avenue to implement resistance management in a regulatory context. The 2000s opened with a bang with the Losey, Rayor and Carter 1999 and Quist and Chapela 2001 articles in Nature, which exposed the serious gaps in the ecological risks assessment methods used throughout the world. These gaps present challenges that have yet to be fully resolved today.

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Speaker Bio

Ecologist David Andow began his new role leading the Department of Applied Ecology in August last year. He served as a Distinguished McKnight University Professor in the Department of Entomology at the University of Minnesota for 38 years. His research has focused on insect population and community ecology, ecological risk assessment of invasive species and genetically engineered organisms, insect resistance management, and science policy. He graduated magna cum laude with a BS in Biology from Brown University and a PhD in Ecology from Cornell University before completing a post-doc at the National Institute of Agro-environmental Sciences in Japan. He has had long-standing cooperative research with Embrapa in Brazil, where he was for three years before coming to NC State.

GES Colloquium is jointly taught by Drs. Jen Baltzegar and Dawn Rodriguez-Ward, who you may contact with any class-specific questions. Colloquium will be held in person in the 1911 Building, room 129, and live-streamed via Zoom.

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February 6
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
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1911 Building, Room 129 (North Campus)
10 Current Dr.
Raleigh, NC United States
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