Institute for Biosafety in Plant Biotechnology
Head: Professor Dr. Joachim Schiemann
The responsibilities of the Institute for Biosafety in Plant Biotechnology (SB) are defined by the Gene Technology Act, the Plant Protection Act and relevant statutory orders, and by the Research Schedule of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL).
The institute is involved in the approval procedure for the release and marketing of genetically modified organisms (GMO). Within the scope of biosafety research and research accompanying the cultivation of plants, safety aspects and possible effects of novel plant breeding techniques on the ecological balance and sustainable agriculture as well as criteria and measures for monitoring of genetically modified plants (GMP) are investigated. The institute is represented in national and international committees for risk assessment of GMO. Scientists of the institute give lectures at the universities of Lüneburg, Göttingen, Bernburg and Halle, and are among the members of the Editorial Boards of several international journals.
Activities and research areas
The main tasks of the institute are giving advice to the federal government and fulfilling the activities according to the legal obligations. These obligations require active research, focusing on risk assessment, management, and the evaluation of effects resulting from biotechnological techniques applied to plants. The special expertise of the institute comes from linking legal obligations with its own research and close cooperation with national and international experts.
Legally based activities:
- Elaboration of scientific opinions on applications for the release and placing on the market of GMO and of proposals for management measures in the frame of the Gene Technology Act
- Making available and processing of data regarding field releases and placing on the market of GMO in EU countries, and of background information regarding the safety assessment of GMO
- Elaboration of the scientific principles of monitoring GMP grown in the field
- Establishing recommendations for the cultivation of conventional plants and GMP in parallel (co-existence) in cooperation with other JKI institutes whose activities focus on plant cultivation and plant breeding research
- Biosafety, sustainability, and possible impacts of novel biotechnological techniques, including gene technology in plant production
- Assessment of risks and possible impacts resulting from the cultivation of GMP
Strategic aims of research
Improvement of the assessment of safety and sustainability of novel biotechnological techniques in plant breeding and cultivation.
- Analysis of sequence-specific modifications of plant genomes applying novel plant breeding techniques.
- Investigations into epigenetic modifications of plants.
- Accumulation of competence in bioinformatics in cooperation with other institutes.
- Establishment and maintenance of a central data bank collecting information on the assessment of impacts from novel biotechnological techniques applied in plant breeding and cultivation.
- Development of a good agricultural practice, including monitoring and assessment of impacts from the introduction of new varieties (e.g., Russian dandelion for the production of rubber, latex, and inulin).
- Comparative studies of generating disease resistance by means of conventional and biotechnological techniques under the aspects of biosafety (e.g., potatoes resistant to Potato virus Y and Phytophthora infestans, wheat resistant to Wheat dwarf virus).
- Safety aspects when using plant virus sequences for transient gene expression.
Development of efficient and transparent procedures for the assessment of risks and impacts from GMP cultivation
- Assessment of risks of the release and placing on the market of GMP in cooperation with national, European, and international authorities.
- Participation in elaborating and evaluating risk analyses of GMP on EU and international levels, among others in committees like EFSA and OECD.
- Risk assessment of new characteristics of GMP (e.g., for the use as energy plants, industrial raw material, or for the production of pharmaceutics), including their impact on the environment.
- Elaboration of scientific principles for recommendations aiming to avoid economic risks in the case of neighbouring cultivation of GMP and conventional plants.
- Elaboration and evaluation of safety relevant criteria for the monitoring of long-term effects of GMP on agro-ecosystems.
- Participation in the development of methods for the detection and tracing of GMO in the environment.
- Biosafety research on the genetic stability and specificity of expression of heterologous genes in GMP and research on the safety of transformation vectors.
- Research on genetically engineered modifications in cultivated plants with a view to spreading and persistence and under the aspect of minimising regulatory hurdles.