The National Academy of Sciences finds that modern biotech crops are safe to eat and safe for the environment in a new comprehensive report, Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects, released today. Let's just go through the highlights:
Effects on human health. The committee carefully searched all available research studies for persuasive evidence of adverse health effects directly attributable to consumption of foods derived from GE [genetically engineered] crops but found none. 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. 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.
There is some evidence that GE insect-resistant crops have had benefits to human health by reducing insecticide poisonings. In addition, several GE crops are in development that are designed to benefit human health, such as rice with increased beta-carotene content to help prevent blindness and death caused by vitamin A deficiencies in some developing nations.
Effects on the environment. 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 says. While gene flow – the transfer of genes from a GE crop to a wild relative species – has occurred, no examples have demonstrated an adverse environmental effect from this transfer. Overall, the committee found no conclusive evidence of cause-and-effect relationships between GE crops and environmental problems. However, the complex nature of assessing long-term environmental changes often made it difficult to reach definitive conclusions.
The NAS study committee was concerned about the evolution of herbicide resistant weeds and pesticide resistant insects, but noted that agronomic changes could manage the pest resistance problem. The committee also noted that the advent of GE crops had not speeded up the trajectory of yield increases in U.S. crops. However, there is considerable evidence that biotech crops contribute to significant yield increases for farmers in developing countries.
So Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Organic Consumers Association, and the Center for Food Safety, I invite you all to endorse the strong scientific consensus on the safety of biotech crops.