Procedures for the selection of species for ecotoxicological risk assessment of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) gene products in the epigeal and hypogeal environments are proposed. Although species can be selected on the basis of ecological realism and functional importance, the number of organisms requiring testing and the nature of the test procedures remain uncertain with such a selectively toxic material. The heterogeneity of the soil environment, the stratification of plant material at different stages of breakdown and decomposition and the aggregation and patterns of movement of the soil fauna and flora impose problems for the design of ecologically relevant test methods. Similarly, the impact upon beneficial invertebrates, if toxic effects are detected, will be mediated by the scale and pattern of transgenic plant release in the fragmented agricultural landscape. To properly assess the ecological risks posed by a widely released toxin with a narrow spectrum of effects, a combination of laboratory tests, field experiments and longer-term monitoring will be required.
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