Genetically engineered (GE) crops present no more risk to human health than conventionally bred crops, according to a comprehensive new report by the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.
The 388-page report, based on the analysis of more than 1,000 studies on the use and effects of GM crops since the technology emerged in 1980s, also said there is some evidence that GE crops have some benefits to human health.
“The committee concluded that no differences have been found that implicate a higher risk to human health safety from these GE foods than from their non-GE counterparts,” say the authors of the independent report, which was released on Tuesday,.
“There is some evidence that GE insect-resistant crops have had benefits to human health by reducing insecticide poisonings and decreasing exposure to fumonisins.” Engineered seeds
GE plants are grown from seeds engineered to resist insecticides and herbicides, add nutritional benefits and improve crop yields.
Corn, cotton, potatoes and wheat are among many other crops grown in the US that are being genetically modified.
The authors accepted that the design and analysis of many animal-feeding studies were not optimal, but said “the large number of experimental studies provided reasonable evidence that animals were not harmed by eating food derived from GE crops”.
They also pointed out that the evolution of resistance in both insects and weeds caused by growing GE crops has become “a major agronomic problem”.
The scientists said this negative effect can be avoided by better management of farmland.
The science advisory board also acknowledged in its report that it is unclear whether the genetical engineering technology has actually increased crop yields, as many scientists and industry specialists have previously claimed.
“There is disagreement among researchers about how much GE traits can increase yields compared with conventional breeding,” the report said.
“Although the sum of experimental evidence indicates that GE traits are contributing to actual yield increases, there is no evidence from USDA data that they have substantially increased the rate at which US agriculture is increasing yields.”
The authors recommended that “new varieties (of crops), whether genetically engineered or conventionally bred, be subjected to safety testing if they have novel intended or unintended characteristics with potential hazards”.
While providing a detailed map of the research on GE crops in the last two decades, the report avoided to dive in to the controversial issue of whether GE food should be labelled.
Some believe they can lead to health problems and harm the environment.
Opponents have pushed for mandatory labelling, though the federal government and many scientists have long been saying that the technology is safe.
The report’s authors said labels are not needed for food safety reasons, but could used for transparency.
Daily Maverick © All rights reserved