CERA's four program platforms span the continuum of biotechnology and biosafety research through to development impact.
Platform 1: Improving systematic approaches to the environmental risk assessment of genetically modified plants.
Project Example: CERA convened a tripartite working group of entomologists and risk assessors to 1) identify best practices for Tier I non-target arthropod testing as used in the environmental risk assessment of transgenic, insect resistant plants and 2) identify appropriate surrogate arthropods for Tier 1 testing relevant to aquatic environments. Both of these projects resulted in peer-reviewed publications.
Platform 2: Understanding the receiving environment.
Project Example: CERA is working to develop a conceptual framework that will explore the questions of "if, when, and how" environmental risk assessment data collected in experimental field trials are applicable across representative agro-ecosystems. This is of particular importance to regulatory authorities seeking to support regional risk assessment approaches and to public sector product developers who cannot afford to meet unnecessary, duplicative data requirements.
Platform 3: Rationalizing environmental risk assessment in the context of limited releases to the environment.
Project Example: Regulatory approvals of genetically modified (GM)crops are not synchronized internationally, which means that a new GM crop that s approved for cultivation in one country may end up in commodity or seed shipments to another country where that GM crop has yet to be approved. Although product developers and others in the grain and seed trades actively work to avoid such situations, they can and do occur. When they do, it is usual for the government of the importing country to require an environmental risk assessment of the unapproved GM crop. However, the exposure scenario associated with such a situation of low-level presence is very different to that associated with a deliberate release of a GM crop for the purpose of cultivation and CERA is exploring if/how the risk assessment should be changed to account for this.
Platform 4: Capacity building with a focus on developing and/or participating in strategic, longer term programs that seek to support and strengthen the regulatory and scientific communities involved in the environmental risk assessment of agricultural biotechnologies.
Project example: As part of ongoing work under the South Asia Biosafety Program (SABP), CERA held the International Conference on the Environmental Risk Assessment of GE Plants in April 2012. The conference included sessions on history and harmonization of ERA requirements, research and regulation in South Asia, post-release product stewardship, and regulatory process as a means to support ERA. Participants from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka attended. Future activities in South Asia will include a problem formulation workshop in Bangladesh to help regulators identify protection goals relevant to ERA as well as providing technical assistance to the Department of Environment as they develop guidelines for ERA of GE plants.