The Biosafety Institute for Genetically Modified Agricultural Products (BIGMAP) will provide independent, science-based and third-party evaluations of the risks and benefits of genetically modified agricultural products (GMAPs) to consumers and the environment, according to Manjit Misra, director of BIGMAP.

Misra compared the new institute to the Underwriters Laboratories Inc., which was established to restore public confidence in the safety of electricity when that source of energy was in its infancy. BIGMAP would take the idea of UL Laboratory to a new level by including the social, economic and environmental issues of GMAPs.

"BIGMAP will serve as a dynamic example of the land-grant mission in the 21st century," says 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 a unique educational opportunity to teach students on 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 to Iowa," says Catherine Woteki, dean of Iowa State's College of Agriculture. "We are committed to developing the scientific safeguards and the 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 campus unit affiliated with BIGMAP. Other colleges or units involved in the institute are the College of Veterinary Medicine, ISU Extension, the Vice Provost's Office for Research and the Plant Sciences Institute. These organizations will contribute start-up funds for the institute.

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.