For the fourth time in recent years, a committee of the US National Research Council has warned regulators and developers of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that science knows too little about how the novel organisms will behave in the real world.

The latest report, issued Tuesday (January 20), argues that the safest way to make sure that a transgenic animal or plant cannot escape to spread its engineered genes in nature is to fence it off with more than one containment system. If one method falters, then others can take over as fail-safes.

The new report focuses on methods of biological containment, but concludes that confinement methods for GMOs should also include chemical and physical barriers such as greenhouses and inland aquaculture pens. Because of their cost and complexity, biological containment methods such as sterilization and chromosome duplication will usually be the third choice, according to committee member Daniel...

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