MAPPING OF GMO BIOSAFETY RESEARCH WITH THE USE OF DATA-MINING TECHNIQUES
LEWANDOWSKI, REMIGIUSZ JAN
The degradation of the environment has become a subject of public concern and awareness during the past decades, and has been exacerbated in the public’s mind by the deliberate release into the environment of Genetic Modified Organisms (GMOs) for commercial purposes. Particularly in Europe, it has provoked broad public discussion and demands for scientific safety assurance and clear legislation rules. Based on this, the new scientific domain of “biosafety” has appeared. Biosafety is strongly influenced by large amounts of data, both scientific and non-scientific, including from molecular biology, plant pathology, agronomy, government policy, legislation, sociology and socio-economic issues. The perceived negative aspects derived from the development of modern biotechnology and its application in agriculture has increased scepticism and fears among consumers and public authorities. In Europe, the environmental release of GMOs has become a symbol of controversy and public resistance. For instance, Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) activists regularly conduct protest actions, such as blocking or even destroying experimental field trials of GM plants. Additionally, the governments of several countries have announced national bans on GM products that have already been approved elsewhere, or even by departments within their own government. In order to elucidate why these views and actions may have come about, and to better understand the various interactions, correlations and influences in the biosafety domain, it was proposed to assess and exploit reliable resources related to the biosafety of GMOs found on the Internet, and to analyse them with the aid of advanced statistical techniques (data-mining). In this thesis, important online databases relevant to GM plants have be identified and described in order to highlight the current situation with regards to biosafety knowledge. The results demonstrate that a large number of biosafety online resources are mostly dedicated to policy-makers, regulators, and academics, rather than being in a format easily accessible to the population at large. To investigate the extent of biosafety knowledge further, it was decided to analyse biosafety research output with the use data-mining techniques. This pioneering investigation employed a scientometric study of peer-reviewed scientific publications selected and stored in the online Biosafety Bibliographic Database (BBD) maintained on the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) webpages. The study identified substantial regional biases in country-driven approaches towards GMOs between the USA, the EU and China. The EU is associated with biosafety, human health, food safety and consumer protection, where the USA and China are more concentrated on transgenic plants technology development and application. The results of keyword association analyses emphasised particular biosafety concerns related to specific GM plants. Our results suggest that biosafety research is strongly correlated with public opinion, public attitudes, government policy and law.