Scientists Declare No Consensus on GMO Safety

Jay Owen Earth Systems Science

ISIS Report 21/10/13Scientists Declare No Consensus on GMO Safety#############################################A group of 93 scientists from all over the world deplore the disinformationover the safety of GMOs and expose the lack of empirical and scientificevidence on which the false claims of “consensus” on safety are being madeSign the statement or see the list of signatories by following the linkshere scientists, physicians, academics, and experts from disciplines relevantto the scientific, legal, social and safety assessment aspects ofgenetically modified organisms (GMOs) [1], we strongly reject claims by GMseed developers and some scientists, commentators, and journalists thatthere is a “scientific consensus” on GMO safety[2] [3] [4] and that thedebate on this topic is “over”[5].We feel compelled to issue this statement because the claimed consensus onGMO safety does not exist. The claim that it does exist is misleading andmisrepresents the currently available scientific evidence and the broaddiversity of opinion among scientists on this issue. Moreover, the claimencourages a climate of complacency that could lead to a lack of regulatoryand scientific rigour and appropriate caution, potentially endangering thehealth 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 anddisagreement. We endorse the need for further independent scientific inquiryand informed public discussion on GM product safety and urge GM proponentsto do the same.Some of our objections to the claim of scientific consensus are listedbelow.1. There is no consensus on GM food safetyRegarding the safety of GM crops and foods for human and animal health, acomprehensive review of animal feeding studies of GM crops found “Anequilibrium in the number [of] research groups suggesting, on the basis oftheir studies, that a number of varieties of GM products (mainly maize andsoybeans) are as safe and nutritious as the respective conventional non-GMplant, and those raising still serious concerns”. The review also found thatmost studies concluding that GM foods were as safe and nutritious as thoseobtained by conventional breeding were “performed by biotechnology companiesor associates, which are also responsible [for] commercializing these GMplants” [6].A separate review of animal feeding studies that is often cited as showingthat GM foods are safe included studies that found significant differencesin the GM- fed animals. While the review authors dismissed these findings asnot biologically significant [7], the interpretation of these differences isthe subject of continuing scientific debate [8-11] and no consensus existson the topic.Rigorous studies investigating the safety of GM crops and foods wouldnormally involve animal feeding studies in which one group of animals is fedGM food and another group is fed an equivalent non-GM diet. Independentstudies 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 bytargeted research that could confirm or refute the initial findings.The lack of scientific consensus on the safety of GM foods and crops isunderlined by the recent research calls of the European Union and the Frenchgovernment to investigate the long-term health impacts of GM foodconsumption in the light of uncertainties raised by animal feeding studies[18, 19]. These official calls imply recognition of the inadequacy of therelevant existing scientific research protocols. They call into question theclaim that existing research can be deemed conclusive and the scientificdebate on biosafety closed.2. There are no epidemiological studies investigating potential effects ofGM food consumption on human healthIt is often claimed that “trillions of GM meals” have been eaten in the USwith no ill effects. However, no epidemiological studies in humanpopulations have been carried out to establish whether there are any healtheffects associated with GM food consumption. As GM foods are not labelled inNorth America, a major producer and consumer of GM crops, it isscientifically impossible to trace, let alone study, patterns of consumptionand their impacts. Therefore, claims that GM foods are safe for human healthbased on the experience of North American populations have no scientificbasis.3. Claims that scientific and governmental bodies endorse GMO safety areexaggerated or inaccurateClaims that there is a consensus among scientific and governmental bodiesthat 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 reportthat was highly critical of the regulatory system for GM foods and crops inthat country. The report declared that it is “scientifically unjustifiable”to presume that GM foods are safe without rigorous scientific testing andthat the “default prediction” for every GM food should be that theintroduction of a new gene will cause “unanticipated changes” in theexpression of other genes, the pattern of proteins produced, and/ormetabolic activities. Possible outcomes of these changes identified in thereport included the presence of new or unexpected allergens [22].A report by the British Medical Association concluded that with regard tothe long-term effects of GM foods on human health and the environment, “manyunanswered questions remain” and that “safety concerns cannot, as yet, bedismissed completely on the basis of information currently available”. Thereport called for more research, especially on potential impacts on humanhealth and the environment [23].Moreover, the positions taken by other organizations have frequently beenhighly qualified, acknowledging data gaps and potential risks, as well aspotential benefits, of GM technology. For example, a statement by theAmerican Medical Association’s Council on Science and Public Healthacknowledged “a small potential for adverse events . due mainly tohorizontal gene transfer, allergenicity, and toxicity” and recommended thatthe current voluntary notification procedure practised in the US prior tomarket release of GM crops be made mandatory [24]. It should be noted thateven 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 theAdvancement of Science (AAAS) affirming the safety of GM crops and opposinglabelling [25] cannot be assumed to represent the view of AAAS members as awhole and was challenged in an open letter by a group of 21 scientists,including many long-standing members of the AAAS [26]. This episodeunderlined the lack of consensus among scientists about GMO safety.4. EU research project does not provide reliable evidence of GM food safetyAn EU research project [27] has been cited internationally as providingevidence for GM crop and food safety. However, the report based on thisproject, “A Decade of EU-Funded GMO Research”, presents no data that couldprovide such evidence, from long-term feeding studies in animals.Indeed, the project was not designed to test the safety of any single GMfood, but to focus on “the development of safety assessment approaches”[28]. Only five published animal feeding studies are referenced in theSAFOTEST section of the report, which is dedicated to GM food safety [29].None of these studies tested a commercialised GM food; none tested the GMfood for long-term effects beyond the subchronic period of 90 days; allfound differences in the GM-fed animals, which in some cases werestatistically significant; and none concluded on the safety of the GM foodtested, let alone on the safety of GM foods in general. Therefore the EUresearch project provides no evidence for sweeping claims about the safetyof any single GM food or of GM crops in general.5. List of several hundred studies does not show GM food safetyRead the rest of this statement here see other recent reports from ISIS here you find this report useful, please support ISIS by subscribing to ourmagazine Science in Society, and encourage your friends to do so. have a look at the ISIS bookstore for other publications article can be found on the I-SIS website at new articles are also announced on our RSS feed website is now archived by the British Library as part of UK nationaldocumentary heritageIf you like this original article from the Institute of Science in Society,and would like to continue receiving articles of this calibre, pleaseconsider making a donation or purchase on our website is an independent, not-for-profitorganisation dedicated to providing critical public information on cuttingedge science, and to promoting social accountability and ecologicalsustainability in science.If you would like to be removed from our mailing list unsubscribe at email [email protected]========================================================CONTACT DETAILSPlease see