GM Food Safe Yet Again


A new GAO report to Congress once again finds that activist claims that plant biotechnology is unsafe are unfounded:

GM foods pose the same types of inherent risks to human health as
conventional foods: they can contain allergens, toxins, and compounds
known as antinutrients, which inhibit the absorption of nutrients. Before
marketing a GM food, company scientists evaluate these risks?even
though they are not routinely evaluated in conventional foods?to
determine if the foods pose any heightened risks. While some GM foods
have contained allergens, toxins, and antinutrients, the levels have been
comparable to those foods? conventional counterparts. In evaluating GM
foods, scientists perform a regimen of tests. Biotechnology experts we contacted agree that this regimen of tests is adequate in assessing the
safety of GM foods. While some consumer groups, as well as some
scientists from the European Union, have questioned the ethical or
cultural appropriateness of genetically modifying foods, experts whom we
contacted from these organizations also believe the tests are adequate for
assessing the safety of these foods.


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  1. david f.,

    What the EU needs is to become politicized; right now people ignore what happens at the European Parliament, and until there is a real political dimension to the EU it will continue to pass silly regulatory laws. Anyway, I do not fear the EU until it gets the power of the purse, until it can tax on its own.

  2. the eu tax will be interesting when it comes.

    but the eu parliament certainly does get airtime in austria and denmark, for example. the danish supreme court is such that the laws and regulations must be adopted in denmark — per their rules about treaties etc.

    excess regulatory power is definitely a problem that we all have in common. viz: 11th hour regs signed by clinton…


  3. drf,

    Its interesting to note that much European regulatory law is modelled after US law; especially in areas like air pollution regulation and consumer protection. Sometimes American regulatory policy is copied whole cloth.

    I do not think the European Parliament is politicized enough though; it does get coverage, but it needs to be treated like any other branch of government, and I don’t see that happening yet.

  4. “Its interesting to note that much European regulatory law is modelled after US law; especially in areas like air pollution regulation and consumer protection”

    tort suits are at least not around on that side of the pond. but some of those ridiculous consumer protection deals (including cig. warnings: “oh shit! these cause birth defects in pregmant women. oh wait. i’m neither. these are okay”), including laws designed to save us from ourselves are maddening!

    but how do you mean they’re modeled after one-another?


  5. drf,

    Well, the US gets some bright idea to regulate some activity, and immediately European governments fall all over themselves to do the same thing.

  6. Jean Bart,

    what a horrible thought. is this why denmark and italy had power outages, too?


    yeah — the “so ein Ding mussen wir auch haben” syndrome… argh!


  7. drf:

    You’ve never had fun in Belgium? How could you not have fun in a country that has six hundred different kinds of beer?

  8. never been that big of a belgian beer fan. like it even less now that it’s really hip and trendy here in chicagoland.

    granted, it’s very tasty, but i prefer the SE german-language area ones. and Budvar.




  9. drf,

    Well, Italy had power outtages because it hasn’t built any new capacity since the late 1970s; like most of Western Europe it depends on France’s excess capacity to handle its energy needs over its capacity. Well the problem is that France’s excess production capacity has been slowly declining (as it was designed to do) until new plants come on-line around 2010. So what has happened is that France has forged ahead and built a good system of nuclear power plants that provide France with lots of power, enough so that countries can put off the decision of building unpopular plants itself. In the short-term France gets the benefit of selling the excess to Italy and Germany and such, but long-term Italy and what not screw themselves. The Danes have I think been similarly foolish in ignorning the problem of building new plants – nuclear or otherwise.

    France was especially hurt by the oil crisis of the 1970s, so it was decided at that time we would not be dependent on the middle east for our energy production – thus the system of fifty eight nuclear plants were built based on a US design. I can’t say why, but there is much less hysteria about nuclear power in France than say there is in the US or Germany.

    Anyway, when that accident happened in Switzerland, Italy was cut-off from France’s grid, and Italy didn’t have the capacity shoulder its own power needs, so things went black.

  10. πŸ™‚

    nuclear power is one of the best things about france. denmark (srongly anti nuclear a la germany or austria) is partially reliant on nuclear power from sweden, and due to poor maintenance (which should have been done “maintenant”, of course) partially due to government squeamishness in sweden, the reactor went offline, plunging Sj?land into darkness. at least legoland stayed lit, while Tivoli didn’t.


  11. MAdGE (Mothers Against Genetic Engineering in Food and the Environment) today launched a highly controversial billboard campaign in Auckland and Wellington to provoke public debate about the social and cultural ethics of genetic engineering in New Zealand.

    The billboards depict a naked, genetically engineered woman with four breasts being milked by a milking machine, and GE branded on her rump. Why not just genetically engineer women for milk?

  12. oh my…



  13. ‘The billboards depict a naked, genetically engineered woman with four breasts being milked by a milking machine, and GE branded on her rump. Why not just genetically engineer women for milk?’

    The scary part is that I’m almost certain that seems like a relevant argument to the people who paid good money for the billboard.


  14. In answer to the question posed in CharlesWT’s post:

    Because humans take too long to mature and their feed costs too much for them to be a good sorce of food products, dairy or otherwise.

  15. But apparently, coupled with a form of fusion, humans make a nice power source.

  16. What a great link CharlesWT has given us. Check it out, on the topic of inserting human genes into cows to make cows produce milk better suited for humans (this sounds phony):

    “If women’s essence, their milk, their means of nourishing their young is taken away from then, usurped and commodified, the damage to their life force is unimaginable. What monstrous arrogance to even contemplate interfering with the material essence of womanhood. Or for that matter, of cowhood. We must not allow it to happen.”

    Cowhood:) Anyone remember General Ripper’s commentaries about his “essence” from Dr. Strangelove?

    “I, uh… do not avoid women, Mandrake. But I… I do deny them my essence.”

  17. Madog,

    Not if they were genetically engineered to grow faster than normal, with lactation not dependent on whether they have just had a child or not. πŸ™‚

    Better Human Lactation Through Science! πŸ™‚

  18. Andy, if your plan doesn’t work, you’re gonna have to answer to the Oberweiss Dairy Company…

    excellent reference!

  19. “Essence”, “life force”… wow, what a sharp scientific assessment this group has made.

  20. i got a sausage there, but it contained the picture of the fallen madonna with the big boobies…

  21. Oberweis? You in Illinois/Wisconsin?

  22. yup. chicago. north side…

    best premium milk i’ve had in a while… good premium grade ice cream, too!

    and sprecher, new glarus, two brothers, goose island, and bell’s are all pretty decent brews in the region…

    you from the area?


  23. drf,

    I think nuclear power would probably be a moot point if it weren’t subsidized by the government.

    Mr. Nosuch,

    On “health impacts of genetically modified food,” you might check out the experience of Dr. Arpad Pusztai, of Monsanto Corporation. Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber, “Trust Us, We’re Experts” Chapter 7.

  24. This would be heartening if the opposition to GM had anything to do with logic or actual food safety.

    However, most criticism to GM goes like this:

    Woman in Health Store: “I heard that GM foods give you, like, cancer and stuff.”
    Hippie Guy Who Wants to Boink Her: “Yeah, me too. I totally think natural is the way to go.”

  25. General Motors makes food??
    Then the overall quality must be a question mark, (although quite improved vs. Japanese and German food) and the clerks and check out people at the store are generally rude and attempt to overcharge you.

  26. MAdGE : what a beautiful marriage of pseudoscience and pseudoreligion.

    Altho if everyone else can make up a religion, why not these?

  27. Kevin

    You are quite right about subsidies to nuclear power, but I am not sure that past subsidies have not “poisoned the water” so to speak.

    If only research could be conducted without distortion of the results. The same is true of “organic”, GM or “non GM” etc.

  28. The EU will respond as they always have that no matter how many current tests you run, you can’t demonstrate what the “long term” consequences will be.

    The Earth is in the balance, you know.

  29. I would think opposition to such things has more to do with unintended environmental impact once GM foods are leaked into the wild.

    It is impossible to get such genies back into their bottle.

    There is a long history of negative enviornmental impact caused by the introduction of new strains and species in places they did not previously exist. And these things are notoriously hard to predict.

    I do agree that as a foodstuff, it’s pretty irrational to be concerned about health impacts of GM food.

  30. Kevin

    Let me go on record as saying: I believe in a free society nuclear power would be a significant and useful power source.

  31. concerned citizen,
    when speaking of food, GM = “General Mills”, as in, cheerios. Maybe we should tell the EU about the benefits of Oat bran in their diet. Cheerios even comes in a tasty new mix with dried berries. Take that, EU!

  32. Apparently you folks think that no GM foods are sold in the EU; which is of course false. As last I read about twenty GM products are sold in the EU.

    BTW, why should I believe a GAO report which asked questions of friendly scientists, especially when said GAO report is not going to ruffle the feathers of American agri-business, which has a great deal of money invested in GM foods?

    I’m not advocate of banning GM foods, but I wouldn’t trust the US government with a ten foot pole on this issue.

  33. no, jean bart.

    i just think the eu sucks.


  34. drf,

    Well, I think the US sucks. So we are even. πŸ™‚

  35. BTW, much to the chagrin of the Bush administration I am sure, Italy, including Berlusconi, is the major anti-GM foods player in Europe. In fact, the first bans on GM foods and beef laden with artificial hormones were adopted in Italy.

  36. hey jean bart:


    Very nice! may i gather you’re also not a fan of bush/cheney/rove/ashcroft, either?

    except, i don’t think the individual countries in europe suck. just this false anti-Liberal ?bermacht super-bureaucratic state is the thing i have a problem with. and looking at the things i don’t like about it, i don’t like the same illiberal things in the us (when applicable).

    although i’ve never had a good time in belgium. so there.

    did you like the movie Ronin?

    au re-ecrire,

  37. david f,

    Well, regarding Bush, et. al., they don’t govern me, so whether I like or dislike them is a non-issue. To be frank, I don’t see much difference between Clinton or Bush, but maybe I miss the nuances.

    As to the EU, though I am not always fond of the EU’s regulatory policies (the current requirement of LARGE warning labels on cigarette packages is one example), I am in favor of trade liberalization in Europe, and the the EU has been especially good at encouraging this in France, so I have to give it a plus there.

    Was “Ronin” the film shot with Jean Reno? Yes, I liked it very much; Jean Reno is a great actor. Reno was born to Spanish parents in Morrocco; but because of the Six Day War (he’s Jewish) his family had to flee to France. As I recall he was in the army when the riots in Paris broke out in 1968, and he was part of the crackdown.

  38. hi Jean Bart

    yes, that’s the film. jean reno is excellent.

    as for not seeing the differences between bush and clinton, one had to be forgiven for youthful daliances and… no wait. um, one was a governor of a southern state… no. um. one wagged the dog.. um… wait a sec. a difference will come to me… ah! one can cry on cue, the other has trouble eating pretzels… πŸ™‚

    trade liberalization within the eu is a good thing. however, the re-negotiation and re-renegotiation everytime a milestone comes and goes is a bit problematic. and there’s no right of exit from the club, and how it’s used to try to get social harmonization is also troubling. it is taking on the shape of a social union more than a free-trade zone. and within the zone, there are technical restrictions that de fact prevent people from moving around.

    allowing germany to play with smoke and mirrors with its budget for the currency is also strange. and how charges of “i don’t think your country will make the criteria” games before the euro was introduced is also a bit strange.

    the threats to norway when it was voting is also a problem. bullying by france and germany was a major part of the danes’ no to maastricht.

    and how france was threatened and harassed when it resumed testing in august/sept 1995. the european reaction was a bit over the top there, too (as stupid as many americans’ reactions to the war — dumping out french wine, smashing all things french, etc).

    the eu is following the austro-hungarian pattern of garnering support — make a small country feel important through the introduction of bureaucratic office and “beamter” status, and its people will follow, waggling!

    the original “my two dads” was also good, come to think of it…


  39. I’m from downstate, (Carbondale) but I’ve got Chicago family, southsiders all.

    We’ve got Prairie Farms milk down here, and no local brews to speak of, unless you count what the hicks make in their barns.

  40. hi Steven Crane!

    go salukies!


  41. EMAIL:
    DATE: 01/20/2004 09:20:03
    Fashion exists for women with no taste, etiquette for people with no breeding.

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