The Committee on Genetically Engineered Crops claimed to have heard presenters on both sides of the issue: those who believe GMOs are safe, and those who believe GMOs are unsafe. Researchers assessed GMO safety by animal testing, compositional analysis, and allergenicity testing.
The ethics of animal testing aside, these experimental studies divided small samples of rodents into treatment groups that were fed GE food or conventional food. Low statistical power limits the ability of these studies to detect real, biologically relevant results. The committee concluded that GE food did not harm laboratory animals.
Additionally, long-term data on livestock compared their health and feed conversion efficiency before and after the introduction of GE food. Researchers found no adverse effects of GE food on the livestock.
Moreover, the committee concluded that gut disturbances in livestock fed GE food are probably okay too. They reported that horizontal gene transfer (e.g. Bt genes that bore holes in intestinal walls passing from the GE food to the human) is unlikely to happen or cause health problems either.
The committee analyzed comparative data from the United States and Canada, where citizens consumed GE food since the mid-1990s, to the United Kingdom and Western Europe, where residents avoided GE food. They found no differences in health and disease between the two groups. The data they used indicated no relationship between consumption of GE foods and cancer, obesity, type II diabetes, chronic kidney disease, Celiac disease, and autism spectrum disorder.
Apparently, widespread public concern about the safety of GMOs is much ado about nothing.
Oh, and that pesticide used in massive quantities all over the United States: glyphosate… It’s probably not that big a deal either. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) deemed glyphosate unlikely to cause carcinogenic risk. Canada’s health agency view glyphosate use to be safe as long as workers follow the product’s instruction label carefully. **See the importance of labeling!**
On the other hand, the monograph by the World Health Organization (WHO) changed glyphosate’s classification from Group 2B (possibly carcinogenic to humans) to Group 2A (probably carcinogenic to humans). Meanwhile, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) doesn’t think GE food adversely affects hormones. Clearly, expert committees need to talk to one another, and sort glyphosate safety out!
Compositional analysis: GE crops basically the same as non-GE
Compositional analysis involves the submission of comparative data on the nutrient and chemical composition of GE crops and conventional crops. For example, analysts compare GE corn to a genetically similar conventional variety. Results indicated statistically significant differences between GE and conventional crops, but researchers consider these differences to be natural variation. Except that it’s not natural variation! GE is intentional manipulation of the integrity of the plant’s genetics to meet corporate interests…
Allergenicity studies use “indirect methods” to evaluate whether proteins intentionally or indirectly added to GE food caused an allergic response. The report committee recommended standard testing to determine whether new GE proteins are similar to known allergens, and see whether GE proteins are novel allergens that are not digested by gut fluids (a sign that something is an allergen).
However, the report indicated that allergenicity research has not been done, and that “post-commercialization allergen testing would be useful in ensuring that consumers are not exposed to allergens.” Since we are in post-commercialization, this would be really nice to see! Plus, if the GMOs were found to be possible allergens, then labeling would be required, so that people with the allergen could avoid the product. Excellent.
[1-10] National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23395.
Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.