QWhy are Biotech companies involved in producing seeds and food appear deaf and blind to the majority of peoples concerns? Is this due to deficiencies in Federal Regulatory Oversight of Genetically Engineered Crops ?

Why are Biotech companies involved in producing seeds and food appear deaf and blind to the majority of peoples concerns? Is this due to deficiencies in Federal Regulatory Oversight of Genetically Engineered Crops ?

AExpert Answer

As the primary job of biotech companies is to ensure that the safety of new GM crops has been thoroughly evaluated, companies, admittedly, have not done a very good job about communicating with the general public about GM crops. Generally, our responses have been too technical and have not really spoken to some of the concerns. GMO Answers is an attempt at a new start, aimed at first listening to people's questions and then trying to respond to them directly and as straightforwardly as we can. These responses come from researchers, agronomists, regulatory specialists and other company employees, some of whom spend their entire careers in the development and stewardship of just one or two GM crops. They have children and grandchildren, just as you may, who they know will be eating the food they work every day to develop. And they do hear your concerns, on the job, in the community, at schools, at grocery stores, over the table at holiday dinners and in many other forums. Because they're technically trained, they may not always be very good at responding to those concerns in real-world terms. But they do think about them (a lot) and wonder how to bridge the gap between what they see as necessary innovations for future food security and global farm sustainability and the vision held by others of a very different form of agriculture. In most cases, these employees concentrate on the science that is used to investigate safety, rather than on public communication. 


Generally speaking, ag-biotech companies are comfortable discussing the benefits of their technology with farmers and the risks with government regulatory agencies where scientists evaluate experimental data and determine safety. We are learning how to more effectively provide information to the public. Maybe GMO Answers will help to bridge that gap; maybe not. But please know you are being heard. We're listening, and we're trying hard to respond straightforwardly to what we hear.


Regarding your question about regulatory oversight: federal regulators are (in our experience) generally highly responsive to public concerns about GM crops. Today, the health, safety and environmental studies and the regulatory review required to bring a new GM crop to market take about ten years and cost more than $130 million. That regulatory authorities continue to authorize new GM crops at all in the face of present-day public controversies is, paradoxically, a testimony to the strength of the health and safety research demonstrating that such crops pose no greater risks than conventionally grown crops.


Regulators have found GM crops to be at least as safe as conventional crops and have granted around 2,500 GM product authorizations for more than 300 GM crops around the world. After 16 years of commercial cultivation and consumption, and trillions of GM meals eaten, no known or substantiated safety concerns have been reported. In Europe, GM products go through a particularly rigorous safety assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).  If you're interested in reading the 600 or so studies that have been conducted on GMOs, you can find a list of them here.

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