The World Bank today [Thursday] established a global panel that till be tasked with assessing the safety of technology used to boost agricultural output, including genetic modification.

World Bank chief scientist Robert Watson will chair the panel, which will examine the evidence that genetically engineered food is safe for human consumption, and investigate whether it poses a threat to the environment.

While some 13 million people in the southern African countries face the threat of famine, three countries affected have recently turned away food aid on the grounds that it contained GM maize that could contaminate its own food supply.

The panel will hold its first meeting in Dublin in November, to be followed by consultations with groups including consumers, farmers, scientists, governments and the private sector to produce a global assessment on agricultural science.