The mailing of genetically modified microorganisms: A field survey
De verzending van genetisch gemodificeerde micro-organismen. Een praktijk studie
Canter Cremers HCJ , Groot HF
RIVM Report 719102014
In this report we present samples of how genetically modified microorganisms (GMM) were mailed to us from various countries, including the Netherlands. None of the six packages that contained GMM and arrived by air mail, complied to the rules of the IATA, whereas a further three, which arrived by national mail did not comply to Dutch law. Except two, all packages were a clear result of ingenuity of the sender. We subjected the ten packages to simple rigidity tests, namely 1) dropping it, 2) stepping on the parcel and 3) dropping a weight of 6.3 kg on top of it from a height of 1m. Only one, a parcel harboring commercial obtainable "Culturettes" (Manufactured by Baxter Health Care Products), survived these tests completely undamaged. We compared our experiences with two departments which receive genetically modified bacteria and human pathogens, respectively on a regular basis, namely the PHABAGEN culture collection (University of Utrecht, the Netherlands) and the Laboratory of Bacterial Determinations (National Institute of Public Health and Environmental Protection, Bilthoven, the Netherlands). Apart from confirming our experiences to a large extend, their experiences indicate that the vials in about 0.5% of the packages will be damaged. If our assumptions are correct, an estimated 3000 packages containing cultures of genetically modified microorganisms are mailed in the Netherlands each year. An estimated 15 of these will be damaged during handling, which, at the present standards of mailing, will result in the unintended, small scale, introduction into the environment of the genetically modified microorganisms involved. Our overall conclusion is therefore that the present standards of mailing of genetically modified microorganisms are insufficient to protect environment and (post)man against possible risks.