Expert response from Christopher Barbey
PhD Student, Plant Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology
Friday, 14/11/2014 13:51
As a younger scientist studying plant genetics, I get your question a lot when talking to my friends. I’m often surprised that people seem unaware of the huge amount of government oversight there is on the GMO industry, and that companies are required to reveal all of their data for public review as part of the deregulation process. In other words, it is illegal to sell (or even transport) any genetically modified organism without demonstrating a huge amount of safety information to the government and to the public. This process is rigorous, and it typically takes several years for a company to get through it, if it ever does at all. At this USDA web page, you can find a complete list of every company, every crop and every gene that anyone has ever attempted to deregulate in the United States.
If you click around, you will find hundreds of pages of scientific information (sometimes thousands) on each genetically modified line. Depending on the trait, the Environmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration may also have a gauntlet of questions that must be satisfied before anything can be sold. A really important part of this process is the public comment period, where the government collects opinions on the petition from the public at large. So I would argue to you that there are no black curtains surrounding the industry, and that all of the scientific and safety information is there in the open for you to personally scrutinize.
You should also take comfort in the fact that the overwhelming majority of plant scientists consider GMO technology to be safe. This article reviews the last 10 years of published GMO safety research, summarizing that GM food is substantially the same as non-GM food.
Another recent paper studied the 20-year effect on GMO-fed livestock (a “trillion-meal study,” as Forbes magazine put it). Again, the conclusion was that there is no substantial difference between GM and non-GM food.
These are just some of the reasons not to be afraid of GM food. I think you should actually be thrilled by GMO technology, but I don’t want to over answer your question. Since I am one of the people you referenced in your question, I will personally tell you that I am 100 percent convinced that there is nothing inherently dangerous about GM food. I have been happily eating it most of my life and will continue to do so.
How GMOs are Researched, Developed and Tested
Learn how plant biotechnology works through the scientists who research, develop and test GMO crops at Dupont.