There is no scientific consensus on the safety of genetically modified foods and crops, according to a statement released today by an international group of more than 90 scientists, academics and physicians.
In the wake of the fight for GMO labeling in Washington state, as well as the award of the World Food Prize to Monsanto and Syngenta researchers, the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER) has issued the above statement as part of a press release.
The statement comes in response to recent claims from the GM industry and some scientists, journalists, and commentators that there is a “scientific consensus” that GM foods and crops were generally found safe for human and animal health and the environment. The statement calls these claims “misleading”, adding, “This claimed consensus on GMO safety does not exist.”
“Such claims may place human and environmental health at undue risk and create an atmosphere of complacency,” states Dr. Angelika Hilbeck, chairperson of the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER) and one of the signatories. “The statement draws attention to the diversity of opinion over GMOs in the scientific community and the often contradictory or inconclusive findings of studies on GMO safety. These include toxic effects on laboratory animals fed GM foods, increased pesticide use from GM crop cultivation, and the unexpected impacts of Bt insecticidal crops on beneficial and non-target organisms,” Dr Hilbeck continues.
Proponents of GMO crops, namely large corporations who make billions off GMOs, claim that we have nothing to fear. No 522 asserts:
Biotechnology, the science of genetic engineering, has been used in food production for decades to produce varieties of corn, soybeans, canola and other plants so they resist disease, require fewer pesticides or are more nutritious.
GE crops undergo extensive testing to assure safety, including being subject to reviews by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Respected scientific and medical organizations throughout the world – including the National Academy of Sciences, World Health Organization and American Medical Association (AMA) – have concluded that GE foods are safe.
I-522’s promoters want to frighten consumers into thinking there is something different, unsafe or unhealthy about genetically engineered foods. That is not the case. In fact, there are over 400 peer-reviewed scientific studies which have established that these foods are safe. The American Association for the Advancement of Science has concluded, “[Genetically modified] crops are the most extensively tested crops ever added to our food supply.”
Putting aside the false claims that GMO crops require less pesticides, quite the opposite is true as superweeds are created, the safety issues are concerning. Simply stating they have been in use for decades does not reassure me. Haven’t we seen in an increase in disease in the US? Just look at autism rates (not that I am making an association here, just a point). Americans are not healthier. This is a weak argument. ENESSR explains:
Prof C. Vyvyan Howard, a medically qualified toxicopathologist based at the University of Ulster and a signatory to the statement, said: “A substantial number of studies suggest that GM crops and foods can be toxic or allergenic. It is often claimed that millions of Americans eat GM foods with no ill effects. But as the US has no GMO labeling and no epidemiological studies have been carried out, there is no way of knowing whether the rising rates of chronic diseases seen in that country have anything to do with GM food consumption or not. Therefore this claim has no scientific basis.”…
Another signatory to the statement, Prof Brian Wynne, associate director and co-principal investigator from 2002-2012 of the UK ESRC Centre for the Economic and Social Aspects of Genomics, Cesagen, Lancaster University, said: “It is misleading and irresponsible for anyone to claim that there is a consensus on these important issues. Many salient questions remain open, while more are being discovered and reported by independent scientists in the international scientific literature. Indeed answering of some key public interest questions based on such research have been left neglected for years by the huge imbalance in research funding, against thorough biosafety research and in favour of the commercial-scientific promotion of the technology.”
The statement of these scientists comes in response to the award of the World Food Prize to GMO giants Monsanto and Syngenta. This prize is supposed to honor “outstanding individuals who have made vital contributions to improving the quality, quantity or availability of food throughout the world” The 2013 prize was awarded to Mary-Dell Chilton of Syngenta and Robert T. Fraley of Monsanto, yet neither company fits the description of improving food throughout the world.
Many developing countries reject donations of GMO crops. Even worse, Indian farmers are committing suicide over lack of available seed due Monsanto’s business strategies:
“Indigenous cotton varieties can be intercropped with food crops. Bt-cotton can only be grown as a monoculture. Indigenous cotton is rain fed. Bt-cotton needs irrigation. Indigenous varieties are pest resistant. Bt-cotton, even though promoted as resistant to the bollworm, has created new pests, and to control these new pests, farmers are using 13 times more pesticides then they were using prior to introduction of Bt-cotton. And finally, Monsanto sells its GMO seeds on fraudulent claims of yields of 1500/kg/year when farmers harvest 300-400 kg/year on an average.”
In conclusion, the ENSSER states:
This statement is released by ENSSER the week after the World Food Prize was awarded to employees of the GM seed giants Monsanto and Syngenta. This award has provoked outrage worldwide and stands in stark contrast to recent rulings in several countries restricting or banning the field release or commercialisation of certain GM crops. These include 9 countries in Europe and Mexico, but also developing countries like Bangladesh, Philippines, India where an indefinite moratorium on field release trials was recommended by the Technical Expert Committee of the Supreme Court unless certain conditions are met including proper safety testing. [2, 3, 4, 5] Furthermore, GMO approvals are under legal challenge in Argentina and Brazil due to questions over the scientific basis of approvals.  Most if not all of them underline the lack of proof of safety and insufficient testing.
There is no consensus on GMO safety. Period.