232. The risk assessment begins with a hazard identification process to consider what harm to the health and safety of people or the environment could arise during this release of GMOs due to gene technology, and how it could happen, in comparison to the non-GM parent organism and in the context of the proposed receiving environment.

233. Nine events were identified whereby the proposed dealings might give rise to harm to people or the environment. This included consideration of whether, or not, expression of the introduced genes or RNAi constructs could result in products that are toxic or allergenic to people or other organisms; alter characteristics that may impact on the spread and persistence of the GM plants; or produce unintended changes in their biochemistry or physiology. The opportunity for gene flow to other organisms and its effects if this occurred was also assessed.

234. A risk is only identified when a hazard is considered to have some chance of causing harm. Events that do not lead to an adverse outcome, or could not reasonably occur, do not represent an identified risk and do not advance any further in the risk assessment process.

235. The characterisation of the nine events in relation to both the magnitude and probability of harm, in the context of the control measures proposed by the applicant, did not give rise to any identified risks that required further assessment. The principal reasons for this include:

  • limits on the size and location of the release proposed by BSES
  • suitability of controls proposed by BSES to restrict the dissemination and persistence of the GM sugarcane plants and their genetic material
  • limited ability and opportunity for the GM sugarcane plants to transfer the introduced genes or RNAi constructs to commercial sugarcane crops or other sexually related species
  • none of the GM plant materials or products will be used in human food or animal feed,
  • widespread presence of most of the same proteins or sequences encoded by the introduced genes or RNAi constructs in the environment and lack of known toxicity or evidence of harm from them.
Therefore, any risks of harm to the health and safety of people, or the environment, from the proposed release of the GM sugarcane plants into the environment are considered to be negligible. Hence, the Regulator considers that the dealings involved in this proposed release do not pose a significant risk to either people or the environment.