That huge thud you heard Tuesday morning was the sound of the National Academies of Sciences weighing in on GMOs. And the news is good for supporters of the technology.
According to the Academies' report, there is "no substantiated evidence of a difference in risks to human health between current commercially available genetically engineered (GE) crops and conventionally bred crops, nor did it find conclusive cause-and-effect evidence of environmental problems from the GE crops.”
Given the ongoing political skirmishes over labeling of genetically modified foods, the findings are sure to inspire discussion on the complicated topic.
Here are some of the report's key conclusions:
GE crops provide flexibility, but no yield increase. “The available evidence indicates that GE soybean, cotton, and maize have generally had favorable economic outcomes for producers who have adopted these crops, but outcomes have varied depending on pest abundance, farming practices, and agricultural infrastructure,” the report said. While herbicides have given farmers more flexibility in their farm operations, for example, the growth of glyphosate resistance has become a serious problem. Additionally, the researchers found no evidence that the adoption of GE crops in the U.S. has increased the rate at which crop yields are rising. “They have been going up, but there’s no significant change in the slope” or rate of change, said Fred Gould of North Carolina State University, who led the researchers' work on the report. “That’s an important finding.”
GE foods are as safe to eat as conventional foods. “Studies with animals and research on the chemical composition of GE foods currently on the market reveal no differences that would implicate a higher risk to human health and safety than from eating their non-GE counterparts,” the report said. “Though long-term epidemiological studies have not directly addressed GE food consumption, available epidemiological data do not show associations between any disease or chronic conditions and the consumption of GE foods.” The report’s researchers also added that they did not see mandatory labeling for GE foods as “justified to product public health.”
GE crops do not cause environmental problems. “The use of insect-resistant or herbicide-resistant crops did not reduce the overall diversity of plant and insect life on farms, and sometimes insect-resistant crops resulted in increased insect diversity,” the report said.
Twenty scientists from the U.S. and abroad based “Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects” on more than 1,000 published research papers on commercially available crops like maize, soybeans and corn; 80 information-gathering meetings, and more than 700 public comments.