Monday, October 21, 2013

Scientists Declare No Consensus On GMO Safety

Scientists Declare No Consensus On GMO Safety

A group of 93 scientists from all over the world deplore the disinformation over the safety of GMOs and expose the lack of empirical and scientific evidence on which the false claims of “consensus” on safety are being made


As scientists, physicians, academics, and experts from disciplines relevant to the scientific, legal, social and safety assessment aspects of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) [1], we strongly reject claims by GM seed developers and some scientists, commentators, and journalists that there is a “scientific consensus” on GMO safety[2] [3] [4] and that the debate on this topic is “over”[5].

We feel compelled to issue this statement because the claimed consensus on GMO safety does not exist. The claim that it does exist is misleading and misrepresents the currently available scientific evidence and the broad diversity of opinion among scientists on this issue. Moreover, the claim encourages a climate of complacency that could lead to a lack of regulatory and scientific rigour and appropriate caution, potentially endangering the health of humans, animals, and the environment.

Science and society do not proceed on the basis of a constructed consensus, as current knowledge is always open to well-founded challenge and disagreement. We endorse the need for further independent scientific inquiry and informed public discussion on GM product safety and urge GM proponents to do the same.

Some of our objections to the claim of scientific consensus are listed below.

1. There is no consensus on GM food safety

Regarding the safety of GM crops and foods for human and animal health, a comprehensive review of animal feeding studies of GM crops found “An equilibrium in the number [of] research groups suggesting, on the basis of their studies, that a number of varieties of GM products (mainly maize and soybeans) are as safe and nutritious as the respective conventional non-GM plant, and those raising still serious concerns”. The review also found that most studies concluding that GM foods were as safe and nutritious as those obtained by conventional breeding were “performed by biotechnology companies or associates, which are also responsible [for] commercializing these GM plants” [6].

A separate review of animal feeding studies that is often cited as showing that GM foods are safe included studies that found significant differences in the GM- fed animals. While the review authors dismissed these findings as not biologically significant [7], the interpretation of these differences is the subject of continuing scientific debate [8-11] and no consensus exists on the topic.

Rigorous studies investigating the safety of GM crops and foods would normally involve animal feeding studies in which one group of animals is fed GM food and another group is fed an equivalent non-GM diet. Independent studies of this type are rare, but when such studies have been performed, some have revealed toxic effects or signs of toxicity in the GM-fed animals [12-17]. The concerns raised by these studies have not been followed up by targeted research that could confirm or refute the initial findings.

The lack of scientific consensus on the safety of GM foods and crops is underlined by the recent research calls of the European Union and the French government to investigate the long-term health impacts of GM food consumption in the light of uncertainties raised by animal feeding studies [18, 19]. These official calls imply recognition of the inadequacy of the relevant existing scientific research protocols. They call into question the claim that existing research can be deemed conclusive and the scientific debate on biosafety closed.

2. There are no epidemiological studies investigating potential effects of GM food consumption on human health

It is often claimed that “trillions of GM meals” have been eaten in the US with no ill effects. However, no epidemiological studies in human populations have been carried out to establish whether there are any health effects associated with GM food consumption. As GM foods are not labelled in North America, a major producer and consumer of GM crops, it is scientifically impossible to trace, let alone study, patterns of consumption and their impacts. Therefore, claims that GM foods are safe for human health based on the experience of North American populations have no scientific basis.

3. Claims that scientific and governmental bodies endorse GMO safety are exaggerated or inaccurate

Claims that there is a consensus among scientific and governmental bodies that GM foods are safe, or that they are no more risky than non-GM foods [20, 21], are false.

For instance, an expert panel of the Royal Society of Canada issued a report that was highly critical of the regulatory system for GM foods and crops in that country. The report declared that it is “scientifically unjustifiable” to presume that GM foods are safe without rigorous scientific testing and that the “default prediction” for every GM food should be that the introduction of a new gene will cause “unanticipated changes” in the expression of other genes, the pattern of proteins produced, and/or metabolic activities. Possible outcomes of these changes identified in the report included the presence of new or unexpected allergens [22].

A report by the British Medical Association concluded that with regard to the long-term effects of GM foods on human health and the environment, “many unanswered questions remain” and that “safety concerns cannot, as yet, be dismissed completely on the basis of information currently available”. The report called for more research, especially on potential impacts on human health and the environment [23].

Moreover, the positions taken by other organizations have frequently been highly qualified, acknowledging data gaps and potential risks, as well as potential benefits, of GM technology. For example, a statement by the American Medical Association’s Council on Science and Public Health acknowledged “a small potential for adverse events … due mainly to horizontal gene transfer, allergenicity, and toxicity” and recommended that the current voluntary notification procedure practised in the US prior to market release of GM crops be made mandatory [24]. It should be noted that even a “small potential for adverse events” may turn out to be significant, given the widespread exposure of human and animal populations to GM crops.

A statement by the board of directors of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) affirming the safety of GM crops and opposing labelling [25] cannot be assumed to represent the view of AAAS members as a whole and was challenged in an open letter by a group of 21 scientists, including many long-standing members of the AAAS [26]. This episode underlined the lack of consensus among scientists about GMO safety.

4. EU research project does not provide reliable evidence of GM food safety

An EU research project [27] has been cited internationally as providing evidence for GM crop and food safety. However, the report based on this project, “A Decade of EU-Funded GMO Research”, presents no data that could provide such evidence, from long-term feeding studies in animals.

Indeed, the project was not designed to test the safety of any single GM food, but to focus on “the development of safety assessment approaches” [28]. Only five published animal feeding studies are referenced in the SAFOTEST section of the report, which is dedicated to GM food safety [29]. None of these studies tested a commercialised GM food; none tested the GM food for long-term effects beyond the subchronic period of 90 days; all found differences in the GM-fed animals, which in some cases were statistically significant; and none concluded on the safety of the GM food tested, let alone on the safety of GM foods in general. Therefore the EU research project provides no evidence for sweeping claims about the safety of any single GM food or of GM crops in general.

5. List of several hundred studies does not show GM food safety

Read the rest of this statement at the link.


How can consensus be declared when those declaring it are not practicing true science? "Science" of convenience for profit is not true science and it is doing a great disservice not only to our Earth and her biodiversity but to all of us.

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