Expert response from Karri Hammerstrom
Agricultural Advocate; Grower of Food, Fiber & Kids; Consumer
Wednesday, 26/02/2014 23:27
To answer your question about GMO death statistics, I can tell you that since the very first GMOs were introduced, the number of deaths from GMOs is 0.
That’s right – none. Not one single GMO-related death! As a mother and a stone-fruit farmer, I constantly worry about the safety of my children and the future of food production – which makes me question a lot of things in life. Biotechnology, GMOs, and whether there have been any GMO deaths are subjects that certainly fall in that category. However, I wholeheartedly support the use of biotechnology in the production of food, fiber, floral and fuel.
How do we really know GMOs are safe?
For centuries, humankind has made improvements to plants through selective breeding and hybridization – the controlled pollination of plants. Plant biotechnology is an extension of traditional plant breeding with one very important difference: biotechnology ensures the transfer of beneficial traits in a precise, controlled manner. Crops developed through biotechnology are subject to testing and monitoring at three levels of the federal government that secure food and environmental safety of biotechnology-derived products.
Agricultural biotechnology is probably the most intensively studied agricultural innovation of all time. Researchers of agricultural biotechnology are developing more convenient, healthier choices in grocery stores and tastier food for the family dinner table. By creating ways to boost the nutritional value of foods using agricultural biotechnology, scientists ensure that biotech foods and crops are as safe as their non-biotech counterparts. Researchers look at the levels of macronutrients and micronutrients, as well as fats, sugars and proteins. Every inserted gene is compared with over 500 known allergens to look for similarities. There has never been a biotech food product marketed that contained a protein similar to a known allergen. In my opinion, this probably makes biotech foods safer than all other new varieties of food crops that are not analyzed for potential allergens. Further, scientists are working to develop biotech crops that may actually be more nutritious and healthier than conventional and organic crops, as well as working to develop allergy-free peanuts and soybeans, which will benefit up to seven million Americans who suffer from food allergies.
How are GMOs tested for safety?
The federal agencies responsible for regulatory oversight of the products of agricultural biotechnology are the US Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS), the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Health and Human Services' Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Their responsibilities are complementary and in some cases overlapping. USDA-APHIS has jurisdiction over the planting of genetically engineered plants. EPA has jurisdiction over planting and food and feed uses of pesticides engineered into plants. FDA has jurisdiction over food and feed uses of all foods from plants.
Peer-reviewed scientific studies have concluded that there is no evidence that organically produced food is any safer than food produced by any other method of farming, nor is there a clear nutritional bonus to eating organic. Furthermore, there is no evidence that genetically engineered foods currently on the market pose any human health concerns or that they are any less safe than those foods produced through traditional breeding. "To date, no adverse health effects attributed to genetic engineering have been documented in the human population" (US National Academy of Sciences, Safety of Genetically Engineered Foods: Approaches to Assessing Unintended Health Effects, 2004).
Today, biotech ingredients can be found in 70% to 80% of the processed food on US supermarket shelves, estimates Grocery Manufacturers of America. Biotech ingredients – which include soybeans, soy oil, soy lecithin, corn, corn syrup, canola oil, cottonseed oil and papaya – can be found in items such as cookies, crackers, taco shells, soft drinks and salad dressing. Read our article about why GMOs are safe to eat to learn more.
So, can GMOs kill you?
The answer is no. I am confident in the safety of GMOs. I believe the best way to keep my family safe and healthy is to make sure they eat a balanced diet and make good food choices daily.
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