WASHINGTON -- A U.S. Department of Agriculture advisorycommittee on Thursday recommended modifications intendedto simplify the USDA's proposed guidelines for researchinvolving the introduction of genetically engineered organismsinto the environment.

The Agricultural Biotechnology Research Advisory Committee(ABRAC) recommended collapsing five levels of safety concerninto three levels.

Level 1 covers organisms that pose no threat to humans orecosystems. Levels 2-4, which cover organisms that pose apredictably low, moderate or high threat, would be replaced bya single Level 2 covering organisms that pose a threat that canbe managed by feasible confinement techniques. The remaininglevel would cover organisms that cannot be managed byfeasible confinement techniques.

The agency's Office of Agricultural Biotechnology (OAB) willredraft the guidelines based on the committee'srecommendations. The guidelines will then be published in theFederal Register, together with proposed performancestandards for their implementation, according to Daniel Jones,OAB's deputy director. At that time, another round ofcomments will be solicited.

Among the performance standards it recommended, the ABRACsaid researchers should inform communities about researchinvolving intended release of genetically modified organismsthat may affect them.

-- Kris Herbst BioWorld Washington Bureau

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