STUDY: An overview of the last 10 years of genetically engineered crop safety research

By Community Manager • November 06, 2017

The following is an exerpt from the Journal of Critical Reviews in Biotechnology.

The technology to produce genetically engineered (GE) plants is celebrating its 30th anniversary and one of the major achievements has been the development of GE crops. The safety of GE crops is crucial for their adoption and has been the object of intense research work often ignored in the public debate. We have reviewed the scientific literature on GE crop safety during the last 10 years, built a classified and manageable list of scientific papers, and analyzed the distribution and composition of the published literature. We selected original research papers, reviews, relevant opinions and reports addressing all the major issues that emerged in the debate on GE crops, trying to catch the scientific consensus that has matured since GE plants became widely cultivated worldwide. The scientific research conducted so far has not detected any significant hazards directly connected with the use of GE crops; however, the debate is still intense. An improvement in the efficacy of scientific communication could have a significant impact on the future of agricultural GE. Our collection of scientific records is available to researchers, communicators and teachers at all levels to help create an informed, balanced public perception on the important issue of GE use in agriculture.

Introduction 

Global food production must face several challenges such as climate change, population growth, and competition for arable lands. Healthy foods have to be produced with reduced environmental impact and with less input from non-renewable resources. Genetically engineered (GE) crops could be an important tool in this scenario, but their release into the environment and their use as food and feed has raised concerns, especially in the European Union (EU) that has adopted a more stringent regulatory framework compared to other countries.

The safety of GE crops is crucial for their adoption and has been the object of intense research work. The literature produced over the years on GE crop safety is large and it started to accumulate even before the introduction of the first GE crop in 1996. The dilution of research reports with a large number of commentary papers, their publication in journals with low impact factor and their multidisciplinary nature have been regarded as negative factors affecting the visibility of GE crop safety research. Thirty years of plant transformation technology development. The EU recognized that the GE crop safety literature is still often ignored in the public debate even if a specific peer-reviewed journal and a publicly accessible database were created with the aim of improving visibility. A decade of EU-funded GMO research. 

We built a classified and manageable list of scientific papers on GE crop safety and analyzed the distribution and composition of the literature published from 2002 to October 2012. The online databases PubMed and ISI Web of Science were interrogated to retrieve the pertinent scientific records. We selected original research papers, reviews, relevant opinions and reports addressing all the major issues that emerged in the debate on GE crops. The 1783 scientific records collected are provided in .xls and .ris file formats accessible through the common worksheet programs or reference manager software (Supplementary materials). They were classified under the scheme given in Table 1, according to the major issues emerging from the literature. Beyond a numerical analysis of the literature, we provide a short explanatory summary of each issue.

Check out the full text of the report here.

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