Declarations of biotech safety

Declarations of biotech safety


The risk is in no way higher than in the consumption of food from conventionally grown plants. On the contrary, in some cases, food from GM plants appears to be superior in respect to health.”

Twenty one years after the first biotech crop was commercialized, 284 scientific organizations and over 3,000 studies have declared a solid and clear consensus that GM crops do not provide more risk than those that have been developed by conventional breeding techniques. The following declarations essentially highlight the value of substantial equivalence in characterizing the safety of biotech crops:

WHO released a document on frequently asked questions about the safety of GM foods. According to WHO, GM foods currently available on the international market have passed safety evaluations and are not likely to present risks for human health. The document also stressed that there are no effects on human health resulting from human consumption of GM food by the general population in the countries where they have been approved. WHO recommended for continuous conduct of safety evaluations based on the Codex Alimentarius principles which include assessment of substantial equivalence with non-GM counterparts.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine of the U.S. conducted an extensive study on GE crops and found that new technologies in genetic engineering and conventional breeding are blurring the once clear distinctions between these two crop-improvement approaches. The special committee found that “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.”

The UK Royal Society also said that foods derived from GM plants are safe. In their publication, GM Plants: Questions and Answers, they addressed the studies claiming that consumption of GM foods caused damage to human or animal health. They said that these claims were not about the GM method itself, but about the specific gene introduced into the crop, or about agricultural practices linked with the crop, such as use of herbicides. The statistical analysis and methodology of such studies have been questioned by experts. The Royal Society stated in the publication that “all reliable evidence produced to date shows that currently available GM food is at least as safe to eat as non-GM food.”

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) declared that “To date, gene technology has not been shown to introduce any new or altered hazards into the food supply, therefore the potential for long term risks associated with GM foods is considered to be no different to that for conventional foods already in the food supply. As a consequence, FSANZ does not consider that long term studies are generally needed to ensure the safety of GM foods.”

Based on a decade of EU-funded GMO research, the European Commission concluded that “biotechnology, and in particular GMOs, are no more risky than conventional plant breeding technologies.” This conclusion is drawn from the efforts of more than 130 research projects, covering a period of more than 25 years of research, and involving more than 500 independent research groups. 

The Union of German Academics of Sciences and Humanities also said that “In consuming food derived from GM plants approved in the EU and in the USA, the risk is in no way higher than in the consumption of food from conventionally grown plants. On the contrary, in some cases, food from GM plants appears to be superior in respect to health.”

In November 2017, the Society of Toxicology (SOT), a professional membership association of more than 8,200 scientists from the U.S. and abroad released an issue statement on food and feed safety related to genetically engineered (GE) crops. The issue statement has five key observations on safety, substantial equivalence, and labeling. The Society affirms the safety of GE crops amidst ongoing public debate about potential adverse impacts of GE crops on human or animal health, saying that each new event has been evaluated by regulatory authorities and all necessary regulatory approvals were secured before their commercial release. It was emphasized in the statement that “data from scientific studies have overwhelmingly demonstrated that foods obtained from GE crops are as safe and nutritious as foods obtained from non-GE (i.e., conventional) crops.”

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Board of Directors issued a statement on labeling GM foods. The statement underlines the evidence of GM crop safety as declared by respected organizations worldwide. According to AAAS, consuming foods containing ingredients derived from GM crops is no riskier than consuming the same foods containing ingredients from crop plants modified by conventional plant improvement techniques. The statement also mentioned the results of a meta-analysis of long-term animal feeding studies comparing GM crops and their non-GM counterparts, which concluded that they are nutritionally equivalent.

These statements from the most respected organizations worldwide, together with new statements released every year, is indeed a scientific consensus that the GM crops available in the market are as safe as their non-GM counterparts. With its long history of safe use, FAO and other institutions have recognized the value of biotechnology in meeting the needs for foods, products and services for the rapidly growing global population.

Public and international Relations Directorates, EBTi


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