A Biological Approach to Assessing Environmental Risks of Engineered Microorganisms

  • Lawrence W. Barnthouse
  • Gary S. Sayler
  • Glenn W. SuterII
Conference paper
Part of the NATO ASI Series book series (volume 18)


Many environmental applications of biotechnology involve deliberate release of organisms into the environment, where they must survive and multiply to perform their functions. Examples of such applications include degradation of toxic chemicals and in-situ leaching of ores. It is natural, when developing a scheme for assessing environmental risks of these microorganisms, to take as a point of departure existing schemes for assessing environmental risks of toxic contaminants. The components of such risk assessments, characterized by the National Academy of Sciences [1] as “hazard identification,” “dose-response assessment,” “exposure assessment,” and “risk characterization”, derive from a systematic examination of the physical, chemical, and toxicological phenomena underlying the risk: the emission rate of the toxicant, its dispersion in air and water, the chemical transformations occurring during transport, and the relationship between the dose to the exposed organism (usually man) and the toxicological effect.


Risk Assessment Quantitative Risk Assessment Hazard Identification Risk Assessment Scheme Base Risk Assessment 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. [1]
    National Academy of Sciences, “Risk Assessment in the Federal Government: Managing the Process,” National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1983Google Scholar
  2. [2]
    Barnthouse, L. W. and A. V. Palumbo, Assessing the transport and fate of bioengineered microorganisms in the environment, in J. Fiksel and V. Covello (eds.), “Biotechnology Risk Assessment,” Pergamon Press, 1986, pp. 109–128.Google Scholar
  3. [3]
    Sharpies, F.E., Spread of organisms with novel genotypes: thoughts from an ecological perspective, Recomb. DNA Tech. Bull., Vol 6, 1983, pp. 43–56.Google Scholar
  4. [4]
    Cairns, J., and J.R. Pratt, Ecological consequence assessment: effects of bioengineered organisms, in J. Fiksel and V. Covello (eds.), “Biotechnology Risk Assessment,” Pergamon Press, 1986, pp. 88–108.Google Scholar
  5. [5]
    Colwell, R.K., Ecology and biotechnology: expectations and outliers, in J. Fiksel and V. Covello (eds.), “Risk Analysis Approaches for Environmental Releases of Genetically Engineered Organisms,” NATO Advanced Science Institutes Series, Volume F, Springer-Verlag, 1988 (this volume).Google Scholar
  6. [6]
    Office of Science and Technology Policy, U.S., “Coordinated Framework for Regulation of Biotechnology,” Federal Register, Vol. 51, 1986, pp. 23301–23350.Google Scholar
  7. [7]
    MacArthur, R.H., and E.O. Wilson, “The Theory of Island Biogeography,” Princeton University Press, 1968.Google Scholar
  8. [8]
    Suter, G.W. II, and F.E. Sharpies, Examination of a proposed test for effects of toxicants on soil microbial processes, in D. Liu and B.J. Dutka (eds.), “Toxicity Screening Procedures Using Bacterial System,” Marcel Dekker, Inc., 1984, pp. 327–344.Google Scholar
  9. [9]
    Van Voris, P., R.V. O’Neill, W.R. Emanuel, and H.H. Shugart, Functional complexity and ecosystem stability, Ecology, Vol. 6, 1980, pp. 1352–1360.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. [10]
    Metcalf, R.L., Model ecosystem studies of bioconcentration and biodegradation of pesticides, Environ. Sci. Res., Vol. 10, 1977, pp. 127–144.Google Scholar
  11. [11]
    Gillett, J.W., and J.D. Cole, Pesticide fate in terrestrial laboratory ecosystems, Int. J. Environ. Stud., Vol. 10, 1976, pp. 15–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. [12]
    Stanley, P.M., M.A. Gage, and E.L. Schmidt, Enumeration of specific populations by immunofluorescence, in J.W. Costerton and R.R. Colwell (eds.), “Native Aquatic Bacteria: Enumeration, Activity, and Ecology,” American Society for Testing and Materials, 1979, pp. 46–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. [13]
    Meynell, G.G., Use of superinfecting phage for estimating the division rate of lysogenic bacteria in infected animals, J. Gen. Microbiol., Vol. 21, 1959, pp. 421–437.Google Scholar
  14. [14]
    Wiegert, R.G., Ecosystem structural and functional analysis, in J. Fiksel and V. Covello (eds.), “Biotechnology Risk Assessment,” Pergamon Press, 1986, pp. 129–143.Google Scholar
  15. [15]
    Smith, O.L., “Soil Microbiology: A Model of Decomposition and Nutrient Cycling,” CRC Press, 1982.Google Scholar
  16. [16]
    Sayler, G.S., H.-L Kong, and M.S. Shields, Plasmid-mediated biodegradative fate of monohalogenated biphenyls in facultatively anaerobic sediments, in G.S. Omen and A. Hollaender (eds.), “Genetic Control of Environmental Pollutants,” Plenum Press, 1984, pp. 117–135.Google Scholar
  17. [17]
    Levin, B.R., and V.A. Rice, The kinetics and transfer of nonconjugative plasmids by mobilizing conjugative factors, Genet. Res. Camb., Vol. 35, 1980, pp. 241–259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. [18]
    Sayler, G.S., M.S. Shields, E.T. Tedford, A. Breen, S.W. Hooper, K.M. Sorotkin, and J.W. Davis, Application of DNA-DNA colony hybridization to the detection of catabolic genotypes in environmental samples, Appl. Environ. Microbiol., Vol. 49, 1985, pp. 1295–1303.Google Scholar
  19. [19]
    Gillette, J.W., Risk assessment methodologies for biotechnology impact assessment, Environ. Manage., Vol. 10, 1986, pp. 515–532.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lawrence W. Barnthouse
    • 1
  • Gary S. Sayler
    • 2
  • Glenn W. SuterII
    • 3
  1. 1.Environmental Sciences DivisionOak Ridge National LaboratoryOak RidgeUSA
  2. 2.Graduate Program in EcologyThe University of TennesseeKnoxvilleUSA
  3. 3.Environmental Sciences DivisionOak Ridge National LaboratoryOak RidgeUSA

Personalised recommendations