Shedding Light in the Darkness

No Scientiific Consensus on GMO Safety


You’ve probably read how all scientists think GMOs are safe and it’s only the ignorant public that questions their safety. That’s what the biotech industry and most mainstream media would have us believe. Well, turns out, the scientist part of the equation is not true. Tufts University researcher, Sheldon Krimsky, recently published an assessment of the last seven years of peer-reviewed evidence, finding 26 studies that “reported adverse effects or uncertainties of GMOs fed to animals.”

The report, “An Illusory Consensus behind GMO Health Assessment,” notes: “Prominent scientists and policymakers assert with confidence that there is no scientific controversy over the health effects of genetically modified organisms (GMOs)—that genetically modified crops currently in commercial use and those yet to be commercialized are inherently safe for human consumption and do not have to be tested.
“Those who disagree are cast as “GMO deniers.” This article examines scientific reviews and papers on GMOs, compares the findings of professional societies, and discusses the treatment of scientists who have reported adverse effects in animal feeding experiments. This article concludes by exploring the role that politics and corporate interests have had in distorting an honest inquiry into the health effects of GMO crops.”

Krimsky is a professor of Urban & Environmental Policy & Planning. He is on the Board of Directors of the Council for Responsible Genetics, serves on the editorial board of seven journals, and has published numerous essays on regulation and the social and ethical aspects of science and technology.

Among GMO concerns he identified clear evidence that proteins transferred into the genome of another plant species can generate allergic reactions even when the original transgene did not, a scientific finding that undermines industry claims that the transgenic process creates no instability in the genome.

Krimsky found eight reviews of the literature and they showed anything but consensus. Three cited cause for concern from existing animal studies. Two found inadequate evidence of harm that could affect humans, justifying the U.S. government’s principle that if GM crops are “substantially equivalent” to their non-GM counterparts, this is adequate to guarantee safety.

Three reviews suggested that the evidence base is limited, the types of studies that have been done are inadequate to guarantee safety even if they show no harm, and further study and improved testing is warranted.

In conclusion he said: “The putative consensus about the inherent safety of transgenic crops is premature.”

And adds: “The analysis of how two respected scientists were treated so poorly by the scientific community over their peer-reviewed work raises questions about likely political and ideological influences in the science. I could find no comparable case in the history of science where someone’s published and peer-reviewed work was retracted because it was not definitive.”

He quotes Salk Institute professor David Schubert, who summarized the state of affairs of the GMO controversy as follows: “To me, the only reasonable solution is to require that all GM plant products be tested for long-term toxicity and carcinogenicity before being brought to market.”

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