Genetically modified food at least as safe as food grown conventionally |

Genetically modified food at least as safe as food grown conventionally

James Bennett, Ph.D - chief scientific officer, Keystone Symposia

A recent article by Kathy Jones of Alpine Natural Foods in the advertising section Health Tips is another tiresome attempt to undermine our confidence in our food and more importantly a technology that will continue to revolutionize our ability to sustain and improve life on our planet.

Her rhetoric will be viewed as alarming and frightening to your readers but lacks substance. To wit: “Genetically engineered food (GMO) has the potential to trigger allergies in people;” “GMOs may also weaken antibiotics and are linked to the resurgence of infectious diseases;” “Mutated corn has been found to be deadly to the Monarch butterflies that migrate through the cornbelt”.

You will note the use of words such as “potential” and “may” and “linked.” The use of the word “mutated corn” to conjure up the concept of “frankenfoods” and their impact on Monarch butterflies which appeared in Nature magazine some four or five years ago and was completely disproved by additional research.

GMO foods are among the most exhaustively tested, characterized and regulated plants in history.

There have been tens of thousands of field trials of GMO food in the past two decades. Since 1996, transgenic crops have been grown on more than 400 million acres and have provided food for hundreds of millions of humans in many countries.

Yet, there is not a single documented instance of “damage” to the environment (despite some instances of outcrossing) or of ill effects on human or animal health. (Kuiper, H.A., et al., The Plant Journal, 27, p. 503-528, 2001; Nap, J.P. et al., The Plant Journal, 33, p. 1-18, 2003; Conner, A. J., et al., The Plant Journal, 33, p19-46, 2003 and Qaim, M., et al., 299, p. 900-902, 2003.)

Based on these facts, and on extensive published scientific evidence, it is the consensus of the international scientific community, the regulatory authorities in many countries, several of the most respected and well-known national scientific academies and medical societies and various organs of the United Nations that GMO crops and their products are at least as safe for humans and the environment as crops developed by conventional methods.

The European position on this issue is nothing but a protectionist maneuver and an appeasement of certain political parties.

Groups continue to insist that GMO crops are unsafe without offering any credible scientific evidence to support their allegations.

The consumer, the farmer and the food industry have all been ill-served, indeed held hostage, by the sustained campaign of misinformation and unsubstantiated claims.

The enviable and unblemished record of GMO crops and their products is the strongest evidence of their safety and wholesomeness. Thus, risk-assessment and regulation of GMO crops should not be any different from the procedures used to evaluate plants developed by conventional methods.

In conclusion, I remain more convinced than ever that plant biotechnology is still the best hope not only for meeting the food needs of the ever-growing human population, but also for conserving our precious but dwindling land and water resources and preventing or even reversing environmental degradation.

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