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Risk Assessment

Risk assessment is a safety check that is carried out before a new product is used.  It looks for possible hazards and determines whether these are ‘likely’ to occur, or ‘very unlikely’ to occur.  If the benefits of the new product are large enough to warrant some risk, then the risk assessors look for ways to manage the risk, so that it will be less likely to happen.  If, after careful assessment, the risk is considered to be too great, then the new product is not approved for use.  If the risk is ‘unlikely’ and can be managed, then the product is approved so that people can enjoy the benefits it offers.

Separate assessments and decisions are made for each new organism, because the potential hazards can be different.  For this reason it is not possible for regulators or scientists to say that all genetically modified organisms are safe.  A risk assessment enables a safety decision to be made on each new organism and the products it produces.

Risk assessments are carried out by the developers of new products.  For some products, like genetically modified crops, governments carry out an independent assessment and give approvals for the use of new GM products.  For living organisms that will be planted, grazed or released into the environment, an environmental risk assessment is carried out.  If the product will enter the food or feed chain, then a food safety assessment is also carried out.  These risk assessments inform decisions on whether or not to proceed with the release and use of modified plants, animals and microbes.

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