GM foods neither safe nor needed, say genetic engineers
Posted on 23rd May 2014
Genetically modified crops and foods are neither safe nor necessary to feed the world, a new report by genetic engineers shows.
The second edition of GMO Myths and Truths, co-authored by genetic engineers Dr John Fagan and Dr Michael Antoniou and researcher Claire Robinson, has been released as a free online download by the sustainability and science policy platform Earth Open Source.
The second edition follows the publication two years ago of the first edition, which was downloaded 120,000 times just a few weeks after publication and was read online by several times that many visitors. At 330 pages, the new edition is nearly three times the length of the original and summarizes many new studies.
Author John Fagan said: “The GMO debate is far from being over, as some GMO proponents claim. Instead the evidence of risk and actual harm from GM foods and crops to health and the environment has grown in the two years since we brought out the first edition. The good news is that GMOs are not needed to feed the world. The report shows that there are far better ways of ensuring a safe and sustainable food supply.”
New information in the updated report includes:
- A review that is claimed by pro-GMO lobbyists to show that 1,700 studies show GM foods are as safe in fact shows nothing of the sort. Instead many of the 1,700 studies cited show evidence of risk. The review also excludes or glosses over important scientific controversies over GMO safety issues. (p. 102)
- A review purportedly showing that GM foods are safe on the basis of long-term animal studies in fact shows evidence of risk and uses unscientific double standards to reach a conclusion that is not justified by the data. (p. 161)
- A laboratory study in human cells shows that very low levels of glyphosate (the main chemical ingredient of Roundup herbicide, which most GM crops are engineered to tolerate) mimicked the hormone estrogen and stimulated the growth of breast cancer cells. The level of glyphosate that had this effect was below the level allowed in drinking water in Europe and far below the level allowed in the USA. It was also below the level found in GM glyphosate-tolerant soy, which is imported into Europe for animal feed and human food. If confirmed in animal studies, this finding would overturn regulatory assumptions of safe levels of glyphosate. (p. 221)
- A rat feeding study led by Professor Gilles-Eric Séralini, which found toxic effects from a GM maize and tiny amounts of the Roundup herbicide it is grown with, was retracted by a journal editor for unscientific reasons. Yet the study is far stronger and more detailed than many industry studies that are accepted as proof of safety for GMOs. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) had to reject the study in order to protect its own previous opinions on this and other GMOs, for reasons explained in the report. The findings of this study, if confirmed, would overturn regulatory assumptions of safe levels of glyphosate and Roundup. (pp. 94, 147)
- Claims that an EU-funded research project shows GMOs are safe are not evidence-based, since the project did not even test the safety of any commercialized GMOs. Some animal testing data gathered by the project actually reveal health risks from the GMOs tested. (p. 166)
- Claims that Europe is becoming a “museum” of farming because of its reluctance to embrace GM crops are shown to be nonsensical by research showing that Europe’s mostly non-GM agriculture out-yields the USA’s mostly GM agriculture with less pesticide use. Instead, it is the GM-adopting USA that is falling behind Europe in terms of productivity and sustainability. (pp. 232–233)
- Risks from an important new type of GMO that is designed to silence genes are not being properly assessed by regulators. (p. 78)
- Contrary to claims by GMO proponents, the real reason GM golden rice isn’t available has nothing to do with anti-GMO activists and everything to do with basic research and development problems. (p. 197)
- Conventional breeding continues to outstrip GM in delivering crops that yield well, resist disease, are nutritious, and tolerate drought and other types of extreme weather. (pp. 284, 318–321)
- Crop genetics are only part of the solution to our food and agriculture challenges. The other part is agroecological farming methods that build soil and focus on growing a diversity of naturally healthy and resilient crops. (p. 303)
Author Michael Antoniou said: “An increasing number of studies are showing problems with GMOs and their associated pesticides, such as Roundup. There is evidence that Roundup, even at the low levels permitted in food and drinking water, could lead to serious effects on health over time, such as liver and kidney toxicity. Based on this evidence, it appears that the levels of exposure currently held as safe by regulators around the world are questionable.”
Author Claire Robinson said: “Claims for the safety and efficacy of GM crops are often based on dubious evidence or no evidence at all. The GMO industry is built on myths. What is the motivation behind the deception? Money. GM crops and foods are easy to patent and are an important tool in the global consolidation of the seed and food industry into the hands of a few big companies. We all have to eat, so selling patented GM seed and the chemicals they are grown with is a lucrative business model. GMO Myths and Truths offers a one-stop resource for the public, campaigners, policy-makers, and scientists opposing the GMO industry’s attempts to control our food supply and shut down scientific and public debate.”
The authors of GMO Myths and Truths are not alone in doubting the safety of GMOs. Late last year, nearly 300 scientists and legal experts signed a statement affirming that there was “No scientific consensus on GMO safety”.
Download report, GMO Myths and Truths (2nd edition)