GMO 20-year safety endorsement: 280 science institutions, more than 3,000 studies

Currently, there is a social and political controversy about the safety of foods produced from genetically modified (GM) crops. However, in the scientific community, there is no dispute or controversy regarding the safety of these crops. To date, more than 3,000 scientific studies [1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8] have assessed the safety of these crops in terms of human health and environmental impact. These studies together with several reviews performed on a case-by-case from regulatory agencies around the world have enabled a solid and clear scientific consensus: GM crops have no more risk than those that have been developed by conventional breeding techniques.

In addition, there is also extensive literature that compiles the socioeconomic and environmental benefits that transgenic crops have reported in two decades of commercialization [9,10].

This document brings together the public statements of technical and scientific institutions that adhere to this consensus. I made an update based on this document from ChileBio that initially included 40 official documents representing about 190 institutions – the document from ChileBio was subsequently updated in 2017 with the institutions and statements attached here.

The update shows that 284 technical and scientific institutions recognize the safety of GM crops and their potential benefits. Interestingly a large part of these institutions are located in Europe, the continent that has put more obstacles to the commercialization of these crops. On the other hand, the countries with most organizations in favor of GM crops are United Kingdom (33), United States (25), Italy (23), Spain (16) and Germany (11).

Final number

After categorizing the different institutions from Africa (14), Asia (5), Europe (89), Latin America (8), North America (28), Oceania (7) and internationals (15), a total of 166 institutions was obtained. If we add the 101 academies and 27 scientific unions that signed the document of the International Council for Science (ICSU), we get a figure of 294 institutions.

Map of ICSU member countries.

However, in the current 121 national scientific institutions that are members of ICSU, 13 already appear on the categorization by continents – the academies of sciences of Australia, Brazil, Cameroon, Chile, Czech Republic, France, India, Kenya, Ghana, Vatican, Mexico, UK and United States, and these academies where members of ICSU before the document was signed in 2003. Therefore, if we subtract these 13 members, we get a figure of 281 institutions.

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But we must note that the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC) is composed of 29 members, and 26 already appear on the categorization by continents or in the declaration of ICSU. So we must add the 3 remaining institutions (ALLEA, ‘Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts’, and the ‘Spanish Royal Academy of Sciences’) adding a final figure of 284.

In conclusion, 284 technical and scientific institutions recognize that GM crops are not riskier than those produced by conventional breeding, and/or the potential benefits of these crops.

References

  1. European Commission, 2010. A decade of EU-funded GMO research (2001 – 2010). Available in: http://ec.europa.eu/research/biosociety/pdf/a_decade_of_eu-funded_gmo_research.pdf
  2. Nicolia et al. (2013). An overview of the last 10 years of genetically engineered crop safety research. Critical Reviews in Biotechnology, 34 (1): 77-88
  3. Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF), 2014. “25 Jahre BMBF-Forschungsprogramme zur biologischen Sicherheitsforschung”. Available in: http://www.bmbf.de/pub/Biologische_Sicherheitsforschung.pdf
  4. Van Eenennaam et al. (2014). Prevalence and impacts of genetically engineered feedstuffs on livestock populations. Journal of Animal Science, 92 (10): 4255-4278
  5. Information Platform for Animal Health and GM Feed (IPAFEED), 2015. Available in: http://www.ipafeed.eu/
  6. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23395.
  7. Biology Fortified, 2014. “New resource shows half of GMO research is independent” (2014). GENetic Engineering Risk Atlas (GENERA). Available in: http://www.biofortified.org/2014/08/announcing-the-launch-of-the-genera-beta-test/
  8. Sánchez, M. (2015). Conflict of interests and evidence base for GM crops food/feed safety research. Nature Biotechnology, 33: 135–137
  9. Klümper W, Qaim M (2014) A Meta-Analysis of the Impacts of Genetically Modified Crops. PLoS ONE, 9(11): e111629. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0111629
  10. GM crops: global socio-economic and environmental impacts 1996- 2015. Graham Brookes & Peter Barfoot PG Economics Ltd, UK. Available in: http://www.pgeconomics.co.uk/pdf/2017globalimpactstudy.pdf

A version of this article appeared at Sí Quiero Transgénicos as “More than 280 scientific and technical institutions support the safety of GM crops” and has been republished here with permission from the author. 

Daniel Norero is a biochemistry student and works in the Laboratory of Molecular Plant Pathology at the Catholic University of Chile. He is the founder of the Hispanic biotechnology advocacy movement “Sí Quiero Transgénicos” and also writes for the Chilean Skeptical Association and LatinAmericanScience. Follow him on Twitter @DanielNorero

24 thoughts on “GMO 20-year safety endorsement: 280 science institutions, more than 3,000 studies

  1. It is not the crop itself, but how it is raised and cultivated that is the problem, along with the legal monopolistic views.

    1. They are genetically modified to be resistant to pesticides, which would normally be good, but the plant itself absorbs the pesticides and passes it along to the person consuming it. Are the samples that were tested from a real life farm, or were they raised in a control environment that did not have to use pesticides to be cultivated?
    2. Since the US Government is recognizing that the GMO is actually a “product that is manufactured” and not a natural plant, the owning company can halt what farmers have done for centuries, which is save part of the grain/seeds for the next year. This is wrong morally.

    • Walt, your information is partially correct. But it’s also partially incorrect.

      1. They are genetically modified to be resistant to pesticides, which would normally be good, but the plant itself absorbs the pesticides and passes it along to the person consuming it. Are the samples that were tested from a real life farm, or were they raised in a control environment that did not have to use pesticides to be cultivated?

      I assume you are talking about Roundup Ready crops, although there are other herbicide resistant crops, some GMO, some not.

      Roundup is absorbed into the plant, but it doesn’t collect there waiting to be eaten. The active ingredient is metabolized by the plant and by the time it makes it to harvest it’s detectable at very, very low levels.

      2. Since the US Government is recognizing that the GMO is actually a “product that is manufactured” and not a natural plant, the owning company can halt what farmers have done for centuries, which is save part of the grain/seeds for the next year. This is wrong morally.

      As others have pointed out, this is not a GMO issue as many other types of plant cultivars or hybrids are also patented. It’s also not really a moral issue because it is a choice that farmers are free to make. They can choose to plant patented crops, knowing the restrictions. Or they can choose not to. It’s totally up to the farmer. In many cases, the benefits are such that they deem it worth while to plant the patented crops. In developed nations, saving seed to replant your own crop is not a common practice anyway. Hybrid corn isn’t saved anyway, regardless of whether it’s GMO or not. Beans could be saved but often aren’t because the farmer still has to pay someone to clean them and possibly to treat them before they can be planted. Fresh commercial seed already comes cleaned & treated and has an assurance of genetic purity.

    • Opposing GE crops is wrong morally. This will become especially obvious when enhanced and disease resistant types become more common. BTW, you monopoly argument is complete bunk. Patents expire and we still have plenty of options. Including outdated varieties.

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