Friday | May 29, 2015
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Letters 7-5-13

GMO fears: Fact vs. fiction

It has become clear Hawaii is the next battle ground for the anti-GMO industry. Having been involved in this area of science and public policy for over a decade, I recognize the all-too-familiar scare tactics in this campaign. The people who protest GMOs have genuine fear but the reasons for their fear are not real. The science of genetic modification is complex and the average person, politician, activist and even journalist is not able to differentiate between the real science and the prolific pseudo-science that is designed, not to educate, but to generate fear.

Here are a few opinions from world experts:

WHO-Twenty Questions on GMO’s: “GM foods currently available on the international market have passed risk assessments and are not likely to present risks for human health. In addition, no effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved…The GM products that are currently on the international market have all passed risk assessments conducted by national authorities. These different assessments in general follow the same basic principles, including an assessment of environmental and human health risk. These assessments are thorough, they have not indicated any risk to human health.”

The American Association for the Advancement of Science: “Moreover, the AAAS Board said, the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the British Royal Society, and “every other respected organization that has examined the evidence has come to the same conclusion: 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.”

Even the GMO-skeptical Europeans have come to the same safe conclusion: “The main conclusion to be 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, is that biotechnology, and in particular GMOs, are not per se more risky than e.g. conventional plant breeding technologies…Now, after 25 years of field trials without evidence of harm, fears continue to trigger the Precautionary Principle. But Europeans need to abandon this knowingly one-sided stance and strike a balance between the advantages and disadvantages of the technology on the basis of scientifically sound risk assessment analysis.”

Regardless of how widely believed the unsubstantiated fear stories about GMOs are, science-based public policy should be determined by the best science. In that regard, the global scientific opinion is overwhelmingly in favor of continued use of genetically modified crops and food.

Robert Wager

Vancouver Island University