Academies of Science Find GMOs Not Harmful to Humans
Posted on Wednesday, July 6th, 2016 at 7:00 am
A new report that was done by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found that genetically engineered crops (also called genetically modified organisms or GMOs) are safe for humans and animals to eat. The report is called “Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects”.
The report notes that the most commonly grown genetically engineered crops in 2015 were soybeans (83% of land in soybean production), cotton (75% of land in cotton production), maize (29% of land in maize production), and canola (24% of land in canola production).
The 388-page report was begun two years ago. It was conducted by a committee of more than 50 scientists, researchers, and agricultural and industry experts that were convened by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. They reviewed more than 900 studies that involved data that covered the past 20 years since genetically modified crops were first introduced.
The committee who worked on the report heard from presenters, and from public comments, that voiced concern about the safety of GMO crops. The committee also reviewed several peer-reviewed reports that concluded that there was no evidence of health risks from GMO crops. There is a lot of information in the report about how the committee tested and evaluated the comments and reports.
One thing the committee did was compare the epidemiological data from the United States (which has been consuming GMO crops since the 1970s) and Canada (which has been consuming GMO crops since the mid-1990s). They also compared it to the epidemiological data from the UK and western Europe, where genetically engineered food is not widely available.
The data did not support the hypothesis that genetically engineered foods caused increases in cancer. In addition, the data did not support the conclusions that GMO foods cause an increase in obesity, or in gastrointestinal illnesses, or in kidney disease, or in autism. In short, GMO crops are safe for humans to eat.
There were some questions, however, about whether or not a genetically modified food could be an allergen. No animal model exists for predicting sensitization to food allergies. So, the scientists had to rely on multiple indirect methods for predicting whether an allergic response could be caused by a protein that is either intentionally added to a food by genetic engineering or if one appears in a food as an unintended effect of genetic engineering.
In short, they noted that testing for allergenicity before commercialization of a GMO crop could miss allergens that the general public had not been previously exposed to. Post commercial allergen testing would be useful in ensuring that customers are not exposed to allergens. However, the committee recognized that such testing would be difficult to conduct.