Genetically Engineered Crops: Are they Safe?

Genetically Engineered Crops: Are they Safe?

IMG_6834+1There is no substantiated evidence of human health risk from genetically engineered crops, according to a new study by the National Academy of Sciences, nor did it find “conclusive cause-and-effect evidence” of environmental problems.

However, NAS called resistance to current GE characteristics in crops a major agricultural problem.

Nearly 900 studies were examined by researchers on the effects of GE maize, soybean and cotton, along with public meetings and webinars.

“The committee focused on listening carefully and responding thoughtfully to members of the public who have concerns about GE crops and foods, as well as those who feel that there are great benefits to be had from GE crops,” said Fred Gould, committee chair and University Distinguished Professor of Entomology and co-director of the Genetic Engineering and Society Center at North Carolina State University.

“Studies with animals and research on the chemical composition of GE foods currently on the market reveal no differences that would implicate a higher risk to human health and safety than from eating their non-GE counterparts,” the 420-page report found. “Though long-term epidemiological studies have not directly addressed GE food consumption, available epidemiological data do not show associations between any disease or chronic conditions and the consumption of GE foods.”

On the environmental impact, NAS found the use of insect-resistant or herbicide-resistant crops did not reduce the diversity of plant and insect life on farms, though the panel said the long-term environmental changes cannot be assessed at this time.

NAS did not find the effects of GE crops on agriculture as completely beneficial.

“Evidence shows that in locations where insect-resistant crops were planted but resistance-management strategies were not followed, damaging levels of resistance evolved in some target insects.” Also, data on the commodity crops show no evidence that GE crops increased yields.

On the issue of regulation, NAS said the committee did not believe mandatory labeling of GE foods was necessary based on human health concerns, but the issue may be influenced by “value choices,” such as social issues.

The new report comes as leaders on the Senate Agriculture Committee are feverishly working on compromise legislation to build a federal solution to GE food labeling as many food companies fear Vermont’s mandatory labeling law that went into effect in July.