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GMO Answers…well, Answers “What are Some Safety Problems with GMOs?”

February 3, 2015
GMO Answers recently received the question “What are Some Safety Issues with GMOs?”  Site expert Robert Wager M.Sc., a faculty member in the Biology Department, at Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo, BC, Canada, answered this question below.

“When discussing safety of GM crops and derived food it is easier to separate the food safety aspects from the environmental aspects.  This answer will deal with food safety issues.

Every GM crop is extensively tested for food safety considerations before it is allowed to be commercialized.  The testing protocols are based on internationally agreed criteria (OECD, WHO).  A good document that outlines the testing protocols is the Guidance for risk assessment of food and feed from genetically modified plants: EFSA Panel on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO).

The following areas of food safety are examined:

  • Principles of Risk Assessment (4 subcategories)

  • Molecular Characterization (2 subcategories), Comparative Assessment (5 subcategories)

  • Toxicological Assessment (5 subcategories)

  • Allergenicity Assessment (3 subcategories)

  • Nutritional Assessment (2 subcategories)

  • Exposure Assessment and Risk Characterization. 

When GM critics complain that the biotechnology companies do the safety testing they forget to say that which tests, how many tests, and with which controls are all dictated to the company.  Only when all the dictated tests are done to exact standards and with acceptable outcomes does the company get approval to commercialize the GM crop… 

Even though long term studies add little to the safety testing, there have been quite a few carried out.  The conclusion of a review of these long term studies states:
“We examined 12 long-term studies (of more than 90 days, up to two years in duration) and 12 multigenerational studies (from two to five generations). We referenced the 90-day studies on GM feed for which long-term or multigenerational study data were available. Many parameters have been examined using biochemical analyses, histological examination of specific organs, hematology and the detection of transgenic DNA. The statistical findings and methods have been considered from each study.

"Results from all the 24 studies do not suggest any health hazards and, in general, there were no statistically significant differences within parameters observed. However, some small differences were observed, though these fell within the normal variation range of the considered parameter and thus had no biological or toxicological significance. If required, a 90-day feeding study performed in rodents, according to the OECD Test Guideline, is generally considered sufficient in order to evaluate the health effects of GM feed. The studies reviewed present evidence to show that GM plants are nutritionally equivalent to their non-GM counterparts and can be safely used in food and feed.”

Furthermore, taken together all the GM food safety testing can be summed up by this statement from the European Commission document, A Decade of EU-Funded GMO Research 2001-2010:
“The main conclusion to be drawn from the efforts of more than 130 research projects, covering a period of more than 25 years of research, and involving more than 500 independent research groups, is that biotechnology, and in particular GMOs, are not per se more risky than conventional plant breeding technologies.”…

The American Association for the Advancement of Science was equally clear with their statement:
“The World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the British Royal Society, and every other respected organization that has examined the evidence has come to the same conclusion: consuming foods containing ingredients derived from GM crops is no riskier than consuming the same foods containing ingredients from crop plants modified by conventional plant improvement techniques.”…

Almost thirty years later and thousands of studies the global science community has the same conclusion about the safety of GE crops and derived food.” 

Dr. Wager’s response also addresses the effects of GM crops when fed to animals and herbicide tolerant crops, visit here to read the answer in its entirety.