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NAS Report Upholds Safety of GE Crops and Foods

May 18, 2016

“Sweeping statements about GE crops are problematic because issues related to them are multidimensional” - The NAS Committee on GE Crops

On May 17, 2016, The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

[caption id="attachment_22277" align="alignright" width="210"]"GE Crops are planted on 12% of World's Cropland" "GE Crops are planted on 12% of World's Cropland"[/caption]

released its nearly 400 page report, Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects, which examined a range of questions and opinions about the economic, agronomic, health, safety, or other effects of genetically engineered (GE) crops and food.

The NAS Committee on Genetically Engineered Crops was asked to assess emerging genetic-engineering technologies,  how they might contribute to crop improvements, and what technical and regulatory challenges they present.

The Committee read more than 900 research publications, heard from 80 diverse speakers at three public meetings and 15 webinars, and read more than 700 comments from members of the public to broaden its understanding of issues surrounding GE crops.

And after much scientific rigor, The NAS panel concluded in its multi-year study that genetically-engineered crops are as safe to eat as their non-GE counterparts, they have no adverse environmental impacts, and they have reduced the use of pesticides.
Read BIO's statement on the NAS report here.

In the report, The panel also said there was no evidence linking “the consumption of GE foods and the increase in prevalence of food allergies.”

According to the report, at the farm level, soybean, cotton, and maize with GE herbicide-resistant or insect-resistant traits (or both) gave generally favorable economic outcomes for producers who have adopted these crops, but there is high heterogeneity in outcomes.

Tamar Haspel's blog on National Geographic's "The Plate" provides some big takeaways from the report:

  • GE crops are safe to eat.  There is always uncertainty about safety, of course, but there’s no evidence of harm.

  • The GE crops in our food system don’t improve on the crops’ potential yields. They have, however, helped farmer protect yields from insects and weeds.

  • Both herbicide-tolerant crops and crops with the organic pesticide Bt built in have decreased pesticide use, although those decreases came early on, and some have not been sustained.

  • Increased use of glyphosate, the herbicide GE crops tolerate, has been responsible for a widespread and expensive problem of glyphosate-resistant weeds.

  • The report found no adverse affects on biodiversity or danger from interbreeding between GE crops and wild relatives.

  • Although both the use of GE crops and the employment of farming techniques that reduce tilling have been on the rise, the report finds no cause-and-effect relationship.

  • The economic benefits to farmers have been well-documented, although individual results vary.

  • Small-scale farmers may have trouble seeing those economic gains because of the price of seed and lack of access to credit.

  • Appropriate regulation is imperative, and that regulation should be based on the characteristics of the crop, rather than the technique used to develop it, whether GE or non-GE.

  • Ongoing public conversations about GE crops and related issues should be characterized by transparency and public participation.

Looking for more information regarding the The National Academies' report on GE Crops? Here are some of the publications that covered the release of the report:

  • Genetically Engineered Crops Are Safe, Analysis Finds, The New York Times

  • Are GMO crops safe? Focus on the plant, not the process, scientists say, Washington Post

  • Report: GMO crops not harmful to humans, but weed resistance is a problem, Chicago Tribune

  • Study finds no adverse heath effects from genetically engineered crops, The Hill

  • Modified Crops Not Seen Adding to Human Health Risks, Study Says, Bloomberg

  • U.S. panel releases consensus on genetically engineered crops, Science

  • National Academy of Sciences Report Finds no Food Safety or Human Health Impacts from GE Crops, CSPI

  • NAS Study Backs Safety Of GMO Foods, Agri-Pulse

  • U.S. panel: GE crops safe to eat, but mandatory labeling still a good idea, Politico