Biotech Food: Setting the Record Straight

Despite the fact that U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack believes that the regulation of genetically engineered agricultural products must be science-based, and that he has “no doubts about the safety of the products this system has approved and will continue to approve,” some state legislatures are considering bills requiring labeling for biotech-derived food. These bills defy existing science-based regulation and are wholly unnecessary.

The leading scientific authorities recognized in the world – the National Research Council of the National Academies of Science, the American Medical Association, the FAO and the World Health Organization – have all concluded that foods with biotech-derived ingredients pose no more risk to people than any other foods. Download the BIO food safety fact sheet (PDF).

All too often, though, the media creates controversy where there should be none.

In a recent post on the Innovation Policy Blog, Val Giddings works to set the record straight on a recent article in the Washington Post.

"The offending piece in the Washington Post opens with an assertion that does violence to reality stating, 'In the absence of a federal law requiring labels for genetically modified food…'. What's wrong with this statement?

"To begin with, virtually every food item that appears on a plate anywhere in the world is, quite literally, 'genetically modified.' With domesticated crops and livestock this should be self evident -- little or none of it looks like it's wild or ancestral counterparts -- I'll bet my children's college tuition funds that fewer than one in a hundred people would recognize the ancestor of corn, which was produced by genetic modification techniques at the hand of women over ten thousand years ago in Central America. So to assume that modern food derived from transgenic crops or livestock is fundamentally different from other foods in a way that is relevant to health, safety, or nutrition, is a starting point contradicted by facts. This has been recognized by governments around the world for decades (don't argue with me, take it up with the OECD, or the National Academies of Science of every country that has looked at the issue)."

It is time to elevate this discussion from anti-science rhetoric to a rational debate based on the facts.