GM crops are thoroughly tested and evaluated before they are brought to the commercial market, and in the 17-plus years GM crops have been in the marketplace, no detrimental health or ecological effects have been observed. Bruce Chassy, professor emeritus of food safety and nutritional sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, discusses this in another post. An excerpt is below.
“The first plant transformation to produce a GM plant was reported in 1982. Before a GM plant can be approved by the USDA, its potential ecological impact must be fully evaluated. The question appears to be asking if full-spectrum ecological studies are done for every organism, and, by implication, every conceivable situation. It is simply impossible to test all organisms in all situations. Accordingly, scientists select key nontarget species and indicator organisms that serve as surrogates for different classes of environmental organisms, from microbes to whole animals, and typically at a minimum evaluate ecological effects in at least six agro-ecosystems on three continents for at least three growing seasons—sometimes more.
“Field tests are always performed with and without the normally used pesticides and herbicides, since that’s just good experimental design. Scientists and regulators have concluded that this provides a clear enough view of how a crop will impact the environment. As an additional safeguard, a plan for postmarket agro-ecological monitoring is also put in place to ensure that any unexpected adverse effects are detected. If any postmarket adverse effect is detected, systems for management and mitigation can be put in place, or the crop can be withdrawn from the market. Fear-mongers who are opposed to GM crops always forecast ecological doom from some unforeseen impact, when in fact crops are grown season by season, and if an adverse impact occurs, the use of the crop can be discontinued. This is a peculiar concern, since irreversible ecological disasters caused by domesticated crops have not been scientifically documented to date. The resilience of natural ecosystems would most likely allow affected ecosystems to quickly return to their prior state. That said, GM crops have been planted on more than 2 billion hectares by more than 17 million farmers over 17 years in about 30 countries, with no adverse ecological impacts observed. Fair to say, that’s a pretty robust long-term study!
“I can’t resist pointing out that long-term tests have never been required for any new seed variety or crop. GM crops are the only crops to be subjected to premarket safety assessments, in spite of the fact that crops produced using other methods of genetic modification and having identical new traits are not tested before their use. It makes absolutely no scientific sense to single out GM crops for premarket testing while ignoring others that are made using older, less exact methods. Of course, we don’t require premarket testing of crops, because crop breeding has, over many years and thousands of new varieties introduced, proven to be a safe science. And there’s no scientific reason to believe that GM crops are any different with regard to safety, in spite of the well-financed and professionally orchestrated global campaign aimed at making consumers believe that GM crops are inherently different, inherently unsafe.”
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