mx135's picture
Is there any know health risks linked to GMOs

A:Expert Answer

Health and safety concerns are a common topic on GMO Answers and have been discussed several times. We would like to share a couple of responses about safety and long-term studies with you.

 

You might be interested in a response from Dr. Denneal Jamison-McClung, associate director for the UC Davis Biotechnology Program, in which she addresses the question “How can you be sure that GMO foods won’t affect human health long-term?” While an excerpt is below, her full response is available here.

 

“…Currently approved GM crops developed through specific genetic additions or subtractions are as safe as conventional and organic crops developed via random genetic shuffling. Most people do not realize that plant breeders have been randomly altering and admixing plant genomes for centuries. Techniques using chemicals and radiation to break plant DNA and induce mutations have been used to develop many conventional and organic crops. Whether plant scientists use traditional approaches or genetic engineering, their goal is to develop crops with new and agriculturally useful traits. Humans have been changing plant genomes for generations—we just have new, more precise, tools…Given that we’ve been genetically modifying plants for millennia, using one approach or another, we should frame this question in terms of relative risks: How ‘sure’ can we expect to be when it comes to long-term health impacts of GMO foods? Like most things in life (except death and taxes, as the saying goes), 100 percent certainty is not possible or reasonable to require. However, safe use of GMO foods since 1996, coupled with our knowledge of human and plant physiology, points to long-term safe use of genetic engineering as a plant breeding tool set in agriculture.”

 

Also, Dr. Bruce Chassy, professor emeritus of food safety and nutritional sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, answered a question about long-term health studies—specifically, if any studies were available that were 30-plus years in duration. An excerpt of his insight to the question is below, and the full response is available here:

 

“The short answer to this question is NO, there are no 30-plus-year studies done on GM crops. The first plant transformation to produce a GM plant was reported in 1982, which was only 31 years ago. 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 three 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 to date been scientifically documented. 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!”

 

If you have any additional questions after reading this response, please ask.

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Comments

ktotels's picture

Don't believe the hype! Monsanto's "sound science" cannot predict consequences or control evolution. http://www.newsweek.com/worm-now-thrives-gmo-corn-designed-kill-it-study...

17 years is a drop in the bucket compared to thousands of years of evolution. They cannot really know what will happen by releasing an unnatural life-form into the environment. Also, do these so called studies actually study the product that is released to the market, i.e after being saturated with pesticides?

Matthew Carroll's picture

As an entomologist, I’ve researched and studied the use of biotech traits in crops such as corn for years. I agree that science cannot predict all potential consequences or control evolution. When we launch a product with an insect control trait, we work with statisticians, modelers and U.S. Regulatory agencies, like U.S. EPA, to minimize risk and develop strategies that promote product durability and reduce resistance development in insect pests. However, we always assume that resistance can and will eventually happen. That is a challenge that all insect resistance management strategies face – including cultural practices such as rotating corn and soybean crops. (Please visit our web site if you are interested in learning more about Monsanto’s commitment to stewarding corn rootworm-protected products: http://www.monsanto.com/cornrootworm.)

Second, I want to address your question about safety. A corn plant with a GM trait for insect resistance is compositionally and nutritionally equivalent to the same corn hybrid without a GM trait. We conduct years of studies not only to assess the safety of eating the corn, but the safety of the plant in the environment. The testing process is extremely robust, and we are proud of the safety record of GM crops. There are several other questions and responses on the site that answer your question about safety testing. I recommend checking out the following responses if you are interested in learning more:

- http://gmoanswers.com/ask/how-can-you-be-sure-gmo-foods-wont-affect-huma...
- http://gmoanswers.com/ask/i-know-there-havent-been-definitive-studies-co...

DrRisen's picture

To respond to your comment, thousands of years of evolution is not equal to the changes made in GMOs primarily because every change in a GMO is specifically selected, and not a random trait. It is much easier to study the effect of a single change in comparison to the potential number of changes that could take place in the time span you are talking about. In other words, 17 years is NOT a drop in the bucket when it is properly scaled by the amount of change that has taken place.
In response to your claim that the products are being saturated with pesticides, the point of a pest resistant GMO is to NOT need to use pesticides in order to control pests. If you were thinking that farmers might put pesticides on the crops anyways, I have this to say to you. Farmers are businessmen/women. They are very smart people, especially when it comes to economics. I seriously doubt that a farmer would put pesticides on a crop designed to resist pests mainly because it would make no sense from an economic standpoint.

DrRisen's picture

To respond to your comment, thousands of years of evolution is not equal to the changes made in GMOs primarily because every change in a GMO is specifically selected, and not a random trait. It is much easier to study the effect of a single change in comparison to the potential number of changes that could take place in the time span you are talking about. In other words, 17 years is NOT a drop in the bucket when it is properly scaled by the amount of change that has taken place.
In response to your claim that the products are being saturated with pesticides, the point of a pest resistant GMO is to NOT need to use pesticides in order to control pests. If you were thinking that farmers might put pesticides on the crops anyways, I have this to say to you. Farmers are businessmen/women. They are very smart people, especially when it comes to economics. I seriously doubt that a farmer would put pesticides on a crop designed to resist pests mainly because it would make no sense from an economic standpoint.

DrRisen's picture

To respond to your comment, thousands of years of evolution is not equal to the changes made in GMOs primarily because every change in a GMO is specifically selected, and not a random trait. It is much easier to study the effect of a single change in comparison to the potential number of changes that could take place in the time span you are talking about. In other words, 17 years is NOT a drop in the bucket when it is properly scaled by the amount of change that has taken place.
In response to your claim that the products are being saturated with pesticides, the point of a pest resistant GMO is to NOT need to use pesticides in order to control pests. If you were thinking that farmers might put pesticides on the crops anyways, I have this to say to you. Farmers are businessmen/women. They are very smart people, especially when it comes to economics. I seriously doubt that a farmer would put pesticides on a crop designed to resist pests mainly because it would make no sense from an economic standpoint.

DrRisen's picture

To respond to your comment, thousands of years of evolution is not equal to the changes made in GMOs primarily because every change in a GMO is specifically selected, and not a random trait. It is much easier to study the effect of a single change in comparison to the potential number of changes that could take place in the time span you are talking about. In other words, 17 years is NOT a drop in the bucket when it is properly scaled by the amount of change that has taken place.
In response to your claim that the products are being saturated with pesticides, the point of a pest resistant GMO is to NOT need to use pesticides in order to control pests. If you were thinking that farmers might put pesticides on the crops anyways, I have this to say to you. Farmers are businessmen/women. They are very smart people, especially when it comes to economics. I seriously doubt that a farmer would put pesticides on a crop designed to resist pests mainly because it would make no sense from an economic standpoint.

DrRisen's picture

To respond to your comment, thousands of years of evolution is not equal to the changes made in GMOs primarily because every change in a GMO is specifically selected, and not a random trait. It is much easier to study the effect of a single change in comparison to the potential number of changes that could take place in the time span you are talking about. In other words, 17 years is NOT a drop in the bucket when it is properly scaled by the amount of change that has taken place.
In response to your claim that the products are being saturated with pesticides, the point of a pest resistant GMO is to NOT need to use pesticides in order to control pests. If you were thinking that farmers might put pesticides on the crops anyways, I have this to say to you. Farmers are businessmen/women. They are very smart people, especially when it comes to economics. I seriously doubt that a farmer would put pesticides on a crop designed to resist pests mainly because it would make no sense from an economic standpoint.

DrRisen's picture

To respond to your comment, thousands of years of evolution is not equal to the changes made in GMOs primarily because every change in a GMO is specifically selected, and not a random trait. It is much easier to study the effect of a single change in comparison to the potential number of changes that could take place in the time span you are talking about. In other words, 17 years is NOT a drop in the bucket when it is properly scaled by the amount of change that has taken place.
In response to your claim that the products are being saturated with pesticides, the point of a pest resistant GMO is to NOT need to use pesticides in order to control pests. If you were thinking that farmers might put pesticides on the crops anyways, I have this to say to you. Farmers are businessmen/women. They are very smart people, especially when it comes to economics. I seriously doubt that a farmer would put pesticides on a crop designed to resist pests mainly because it would make no sense from an economic standpoint.