Iowa State University will create the Biosafety Institute for Genetically Modified Agricultural Products to provide independent, science-based and third-party evaluations of genetically modified ag products. Specific focus will be on the risks and benefits to consumers and the environment, according to Manjit Misra, director of BIGMAP.

Misra compared the new institute to the Underwriters Laboratories, which was established to restore public confidence in electrical safety when that energy source was in its infancy. BIGMAP will include social, economic and environmental issues of genetically modifiied products.

"BIGMAP will serve as a dynamic example of the land-grant mission in the 21st century," say Ben Allen, provost at Iowa State. "It will serve as a valuable resource for policymakers and spur economic development in Iowa. Most important, it will provide educational opportunities to teach students about the safe use of a new revolutionizing technology in addressing human needs."

"We believe maintaining public confidence in the quality and safety of the food supply is of paramount importance," says Catherine Woteki, dean of Iowa State's College of Agriculture. "We are committed to developing the scientific safeguards and educational response needed to form the basis for that public confidence while working to introduce genetically engineered crops."

The College of Agriculture will be the lead college in BIGMAP, however, others involved include College of Veterinary Medicine, Iowa State Extension, the Vice Provost's Office for Research and the Plant Sciences Institute. These organizations will contribute start-up funds.

An Iowa State initiative created by President Gregory Geoffroy to fund innovative projects will provide core funding. External funding will come from the Iowa Department of Economic Development, the Iowa Cooperative and the Iowa AgState Group.

Iowa State University