No scientific basis for GMO fears

As a medical professional reasonably informed in biology I write to convey my opinion that current efforts to limit GMO agriculture on Hawaii Island are not supported by evidence or prudent considerations of risks vs. benefits.

I include excerpts from the Scientific American, September 2013 article “Are Engineered Foods Evil?” by David H. Freedman.

“The European Union has funded 130 research projects, carried out by more than 500 independent teams. None of those studies have found any special risks from GM crops.

“The director of biotechnology at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a science-based consumer-watch-dog group states ‘Current GM crops are safe to eat and can be grown safely in the environment.’

“The American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Medical Association and the National Academy of Sciences have all unreservedly backed GM crops. The U.S. Food and Drug Association, along with its counterparts in several other countries, has repeatedly reviewed the large body of research and concluded that GM crops pose no unique health threat. Dozens of review studies carried out by academic researchers have backed that view.”

The prime argument that anti-GM advocates can legitimately invoke is the “precautionary principle,” which holds that interventions or technologies should not be undertaken unless there is evidence of absolute safety. The article notes:

“But as medical researchers know, nothing can really be ‘proved safe.’ One can only fail to turn up significant risk after trying hard to find it — as is the case with GM crops.”

If one were to apply the same precautionary principle in medical science we would not be able to introduce any new medications whatsoever and we would never have developed joint replacements.

I would further argue that the current resolution that includes exceptions for the GM plant ban reflects contradiction. If GM plants were a menace then the crops that are most prevalent and already present would be the most problematic. If the risk evidence is strong enough then ban all GM plants.

Even if the resolution is ill-advisedly approved, there is the major monitoring and regulatory effort to be undertaken in validating presence or absence of GM plants. This is an effort that the county is not equipped to perform. If there were to be GM crop regulation this would be most appropriately done at the state or federal level.

Not a single verified case of illness has been attributed to GMO alterations. Nor is there a credible theory about how such illness might be mediated. Support for the current resolution is based more on ardent ideology rather than evidence. I encourage the Council to base decisions on evidence and common sense. The resolution should be rejected.

C. Eric Lindborg, MD, is a resident of Kailua-Kona.

Viewpoint articles are the opinion of the writer and not necessarily the opinion of West Hawaii Today.