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How can we make GMOs so that they do not do anything except for help our plants, and not hurt our body?

Submitted by: Abigale Gilzow


Expert response from Andy Newhouse

P.h.D. Student

Friday, 20/07/2018 11:07

This is an important question! Of course scientists wouldn't want to release any plants or products that would be harmful to humans. The first part of the answer is that I'm not aware of ANY examples of released GMOs hurting human bodies. In fact, GMO (or genetically engineered, GE) crops have actually helped both plants and human health, by making harvests more efficient and reducing the need to spray harmful pesticides. Safety to humans is an important part of the government's regulatory review process, so any GE product that was harmful to humans wouldn't be approved for release or distribution. 

Additionally, part of the process of responsible GE product development (and preparing for the regulatory process) is carefully testing GE products compared to similar products developed by other methods. These tests include looking for possible changes to an organism's DNA caused by the insertion of a new gene, or effects of the new gene itself, such as testing for nutritional changes, allergenicity, or toxicity to humans. It's not possible to guarantee that something will NEVER cause any risks, but it is possible to demonstrate that potential risks are less than equivalent products. After all, traditional plant breeding and other unregulated technologies can be risky and result in harmful mutations, but these methods are not regulated like genetic engineering is, and they have been in use all over the world for many years. The changes resulting from genetic engineering are much more specific and better-understood than changes resulting from traditional plant breeding, so it is not surprising that careful observation by both scientists and regulators has resulted in an excellent safety record for GMO crops.