How should we judge generically-modified food?
Posted on April 2nd, 2017

Chandre Dharmawardana.

All of us, even those living in remote parts of Sri Lanka or India have been eating Genetically Modified (GM) foods for decades. Most  US or Canadian flour  is from GM wheat.  The bread, buns, etc., consumed by everyone is made of GM flour. Similarly, most  Soya  products are from GM  soya. Many types of legumes including  Dahl (“parippu”)  are also increasingly  based on GM strains. Sri Lanka’s Dahl comes mostly from Canada, albeit often via India. Canola (“Canada-oil”) was developed using traditional plant breeding techniques,  and not GM. However, about 80% of the canola grown in Canada now uses a GM variety to make it usable in tandem with the modern herbicide glyphosate.  GM-Canola is used all over the world including Europe where it is called “rapeseed oil”.  It  contains an essential omega-3 fatty acid that our bodies cannot make.

All the food items we eat, without exception  today are NOT wild varieties, but results of genetic modification over centuries by farmers who have hybridized plants to “improve” their qualities such as yield, durability, taste, digestibility etc.  We can take the rice plant as an example as rice is so basic to us.  The “wild” varieties are hardy, do not respond to fertilizers, and don’t produce seed too frequently, as the plant  conserves its energy till it is optimal to propagate. Wild varieties need much water, a longer growth time,  and the harvest is 1/3 to 1/2 that of  modern varieties even if fertilizers are added.

However, man wants food all the time, so we look for rice that gives two harvests, or three, four or even six harvests per year, with minimum water, minimum land area and minimum effort!  The traditional method of producing improved hybrids was  “trial and error “, because no one knew what controlled the “traits and characteristics” of a plant, or when plants gave fruit, except that it was triggered by the seasons. The early agriculturists were like explorers who did not have maps, and did not have the capacity to send out scouts to secure information, but used trial and error taking many decades  to create new breeds. Sri Lanka’s rice scientists who began their work in the 1920s are unsung heroes who have fed the nation while fighting to keep abreast with the demands of an exponentially increasing demographic going from  5 million in 1920, to a topping 22 million.

But all this changed dramatically with the discovery of the structure of DNA by Watson and Crick, as well as the revelation that the hereditary “traits and characteristics” of a plant or an animal are written down in a cryptic language which uses just four letters. Each letter is represented by a molecule, and thus there are four fundamental molecules whose arrangement (like beads on two parallel strands) in the DNA molecule spells out all the hereditary traits of a person in a million-word “book” known as the “genome” of that organism. The genome dictates how the embryo will grow, and what cell tissues are to be built and in what manner,  etc., as the organism or plant grows.  Some  traits are hard-wired into “dictator genes” and the code does not allow changes to those specified by  those genes – e.g., the colour of one’s hair or eyes. But many other traits are determined by a “committee” of genes, and the way the committee expresses itself is not all that definite. It is subject to  environmental  and external manipulation.

Today, because scientists have figured out the code language used by nature, we can read the detailed plan spelt out by the DNA of the rice, i.e., the “rice genome”. We can intelligently tinker with it,  modify it and create the type of rice plant we want, instead of tedious  trial and error breeding.  We may like to make a rice plant which has a bit of the carrot gene, giving a golden coloured rice which also has vitamin A, and hence prevents blindness. We will return to the saga of “golden rice” below.

So, in principle there is great potential and one would ask, what are the negative effects? We can even clip out “dictator genes” and introduce totally different genes and create “Frankenstein” creatures. But such exotics will not survive. However, even with good, adaptable and useful mutations, there are requirements that we do not jolt our environment. The negative effects come from the incapacity of the environment to adapt to completely new organisms. If we take a rice plant and attach into its DNA  the traits of a different aquatic plant, how will the new plant interact with the already existing plants? It is like introducing a mis-fit stranger into an established society. Many countries  oppose admitting  large numbers of immigrants  too rapidly because it claims  that it cannot “absorb so many so fast”. England took to Brexit to avoid the dicta of Brussels on having to absorb a chigh quota of immigrants.   Similarly, novel GM plant forms cannot and should not be added to the eco-sphere without  acclimatization and further modification to make them “good fits” rather than “misfits’. But GM gives us that capability.

In fact  “new” GM products are modest alterations, and yet there is a whole community of people who are dead against the introduction of of GM strains. Golden rice, with a carrot gene in it was to be introduced to India, but groups like those of  Shiva Vanadana, a “green militant” with a strong following,  opposed it purely because it is a GM product, and “on  principle”. The anti-GM campaign of Vandana et al., used the technique of mis-information to frighten people by talking of “Franken food”, alluding to the science-fiction story of Frankenstein,  the horribly gone-wrong experiment about a person with a transplanted brain.

The opposition of people like Shiva Vandana to GM products is mainly political. They argue that if the farmers become used to GM seeds, then they will become dependent on technology companies which produce them, where as today they have their own seeds and hence guard their “sovereignty”.  The likes of  Shiva Vandana  have made a career of becoming “heroes”  of  “anti-capitalist, nationalist” militant movements who have annexed themselves the political advantages of public fear-mongering.  The opposition to GM foods kindled in India led  the Indian government to  abandon “golden rice”, while it is estimated that millions of children will continue to be born blind, due to vitamin A deficiency in the mother’s diet.  Vandana and others ignore  the fact that the  society that she lives in today is  technological and not artisanal. The computers people use, the cars they ride in, the TV-radio news they see, hear or read, or even the  ball-point pens they use, all  come from technology, and not produced by artisans in the village. Sri Lanka exports about  $11 billion worth of goods and imports $21 billion worth of goods (2014 data).  So Sri Lankans are totally dependent on the outside for their existence, and basing its opposition to GM foods on “seed sovereignty” and such stuff is  pathetic. Even the rice we grow depends on the import of chemical fertilizers like TSP and urea.

The plan to go “organic” proposes to imported organic fertilizers from India! The claim that chemical fertilizers will build up toxins like As and Cd in the soil, while organics will not is a total myth cherished by the true believers  of the “toxin-free nation” propaganda. Any informed reader going through the SEMA webpage hosted by the Presidential Secretariat will be shocked by the fake facts presented there. Sri Lanka’s soil is not full of toxins introduced via fertilizers.  If anything, Indian “organic’  fertilizers, coming from a more polluted country are like to have more toxins and more noxious effects. Neither the soil, the fertilizers, nor the herbicide Glyphosate is toxic enough to need wearing boots and other “protective gear” by our farmers. However, boots may be useful to protect them from hookworm and such tropical parasites that may be found in the soil.

It is not just  that there is false propaganda on GM foods, herbicides, fertilizers etc., but there is also the creation of “fake facts” by various ideologically committed anti-GM environmental groups. These fake facts are published in fake look-like  “science journals” with high sounding names, and the “news” of some dangerous effect coming from GM foods is distributed via the internet.  On July 4, 2016, some  117 Nobel Laureates from the life sciences, health sciences etc., issued a joint press release via the Washington Post, admonishing Green Peace (a well-known Green-activist movement)  to not to fund biased “research” designed to create biased outputs that they can use for propaganda.

Biotechnology is a science that is available to every one,  and the way to not to be slaves to “foreign technology” is to master it. Vietnam has invited Monsanto to set up a bio-technology and GM Research Laboratory and teaching institution in that country, ,instead of attacking this most famous  biotechnology and agriculture firm. Vietnam  knows that even though it defeated the US in the war, it still needs American know how to become part of the modern world and extract itself from poverty and hunger. Sri Lanka too should master biotechnology and genetic engineering, and use it for its own needs.  Since many familiar crops may not be able to face the  expected global warming without suitable modification, genetic engineering will be badly needed , and rapidly, to avert future famines.

Give any specific GM food, every individual case must be judged on its merits. All discoveries and inventions, and not GMO products,   can be used for good or bad. That is, discovery is morally neutral. It is up to human society to use them properly, and also to adopt them at a speed which does not disrupt the existing norms of societies. Today, one of the problems is that scientific innovation is applied too rapidly in the race to beat rival markets. Hence the long-term effects of anything, not just GM products,  are not adequately evaluated, especially in a society where business is in collusion with politics which has gone corrupt, where as the state must exercise a controlling hand on business which are hell-bent on profit making.

Chandre Dharmawardana.

3 Responses to “How should we judge generically-modified food?”

  1. NeelaMahaYoda Says:

    Issues With GM Foods

    According to the American Cancer Society, more research is needed to assess the potential long-term health effects of GM foods.

    A worrisome issue in GM foods is the ability of a food to trigger an allergy in humans. Some of the genes used in GM technology might be taken from a food that causes allergies in some people. Inserting that gene into another organism could cause the host organism to express that allergen as a trait. Alternately, a new allergen could be produced when genes are mixed across different species.

    Another potential downside to GM technology is that other organisms in the ecosystem could be harmed, which would lead to a lower level of biodiversity. By removing one pest that harms the crop, you could be removing a food source for an animal. Also, GM crops could prove toxic to an organism in the environment, leading to reduced numbers or extinction of that organism.

    Given that some GM foods are modified using bacteria and viruses, there is a fear that we will see the emergence of new diseases. The threat to human health is a worrisome aspect of GM technology and one that has received a great deal of debate.

    Allergies

    Food allergies are a growing problem in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), food allergies in children under 18 years of age have increased; from 3.4 percent between 1997 and 1999 to 5.1 percent between 2009 and 2011.

    Some people believe that spike is linked to GM foods. But there’s no evidence that GM foods in general are more likely to trigger allergic reactions than non-GM foods, according to a study from Harvard University.

    Others raise concerns about the transfer of specific proteins from one plant to another in genetic engineering. Proteins found in a relatively small number of foods cause most allergic reactions. Tree nuts are one of the most common triggers.

    In the mid-1990s, researchers examined a strain of GM soybean that was engineered to contain protein from Brazil nuts. According to their report in the New England Journal of Medicine, the soybeans triggered allergic reactions in people with Brazil nut allergy. Those soybeans never entered the market and aren’t sold to consumers.

    The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) have since established protocols for GM foods. They require GM foods to be tested for their ability to cause allergic reactions. According to the Mayo Clinic, none of the GM foods that are currently on the market have been found to have allergenic effects.

    Antibiotic resistance

    Antibiotic-resistant bacteria can resist antibiotics, making them hard to kill. According to the CDC, antibiotic-resistant germs infect two million people each year. Those infections kill at least 23,000 people per year.

    Scientists often modify seeds using antibiotic-resistant genes in the genetic engineering process. Some people wonder if there’s a link between these GM foods and rising rates of antibiotic resistant bacteria. No studies have confirmed this claim, but more research is needed.

    Cancer

    In 2013, the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology retracted a paper that linked the herbicide Roundup and Roundup-tolerant GM corn to cancer and premature death in rats. Due to concerns about the paper, the journal’s editor reviewed the researchers’ raw data and the peer-review process. They found the researchers had used too few rats, the specific strain of rats was prone to cancer, and the results were inconclusive.

    Since then, the paper has been republished in another journal, Environmental Sciences Europe. The controversy surrounding the study’s findings has continued.

    According to the American Cancer Society, more research is needed to assess the potential long-term health effects of GM foods.

  2. NeelaMahaYoda Says:

    IN BRIEF

    The vast majority of the research on genetically modified (GM) crops suggests that they are safe to eat and that they have the potential to feed millions of people worldwide who currently go hungry.
    Yet not all criticisms of GM are so easily rejected, and pro-GM scientists are often dismissive and even unscientific in their rejection of the counterevidence.
    A careful analysis of the risks and benefits argues for expanded deployment and safety testing of GM crops.

    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-truth-about-genetically-modified-food/

    This article was originally published with the title “Are Engineered Foods Evil?”

    Benefits and Worries

    The bulk of the science on GM safety points in one direction. Take it from David Zilberman, a U.C. Berkeley agricultural and environmental economist and one of the few researchers considered credible by both agricultural chemical companies and their critics. He argues that the benefits of GM crops greatly outweigh the health risks, which so far remain theoretical. The use of GM crops “has lowered the price of food,” Zilberman says. “It has increased farmer safety by allowing them to use less pesticide. It has raised the output of corn, cotton and soy by 20 to 30 percent, allowing some people to survive who would not have without it. If it were more widely adopted around the world, the price [of food] would go lower, and fewer people would die of hunger.”

    In the future, Zilberman says, those advantages will become all the more significant. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that the world will have to grow 70 percent more food by 2050 just to keep up with population growth. Climate change will make much of the world’s arable land more difficult to farm. GM crops, Zilberman says, could produce higher yields, grow in dry and salty land, withstand high and low temperatures, and tolerate insects, disease and herbicides.

    Despite such promise, much of the world has been busy banning, restricting and otherwise shunning GM foods. Nearly all the corn and soybeans grown in the U.S. are genetically modified, but only two GM crops, Monsanto’s MON810 maize and BASF’s Amflora potato, are accepted in the European Union. Eight E.U. nations have banned GM crops outright. Throughout Asia, including in India and China, governments have yet to approve most GM crops, including an insect-resistant rice that produces higher yields with less pesticide. In Africa, where millions go hungry, several nations have refused to import GM foods in spite of their lower costs (the result of higher yields and a reduced need for water and pesticides). Kenya has banned them altogether amid widespread malnutrition. No country has definite plans to grow Golden Rice, a crop engineered to deliver more vitamin A than spinach (rice normally has no vitamin A), even though vitamin A deficiency causes more than one million deaths annually and half a million cases of irreversible blindness in the developing world.

    Globally, only a tenth of the world’s cropland includes GM plants. Four countries—the U.S., Canada, Brazil and Argentina—grow 90 percent of the planet’s GM crops. Other Latin American countries are pushing away from the plants. And even in the U.S., voices decrying genetically modified foods are becoming louder. At press time, at least 20 states are considering GM-labeling bills.

    The fear fueling all this activity has a long history. The public has been worried about the safety of GM foods since scientists at the University of Washington developed the first genetically modified tobacco plants in the 1970s. In the mid-1990s, when the first GM crops reached the market, Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, Ralph Nader, Prince Charles and a number of celebrity chefs took highly visible stands against them. Consumers in Europe became particularly alarmed: a survey conducted in 1997, for example, found that 69 percent of the Austrian public saw serious risks in GM foods, compared with only 14 percent of Americans.

    In Europe, skepticism about GM foods has long been bundled with other concerns, such as a resentment of American agribusiness. Whatever it is based on, however, the European attitude reverberates across the world, influencing policy in countries where GM crops could have tremendous benefits. “In Africa, they don’t care what us savages in America are doing,” Zilberman says. “They look to Europe and see countries there rejecting GM, so they don’t use it.” Forces fighting genetic modification in Europe have rallied support for “the precautionary principle,” which holds that given the kind of catastrophe that would emerge from loosing a toxic, invasive GM crop on the world, GM efforts should be shut down until the technology is proved absolutely safe.

    But as medical researchers know, nothing can really be “proved safe.” One can only fail to turn up significant risk after trying hard to find it—as is the case with GM crops.

    A Clean Record

    The human race has been selectively breeding crops, thus altering plants’ genomes, for millennia. Ordinary wheat has long been strictly a human-engineered plant; it could not exist outside of farms, because its seeds do not scatter. For some 60 years scientists have been using “mutagenic” techniques to scramble the DNA of plants with radiation and chemicals, creating strains of wheat, rice, peanuts and pears that have become agricultural mainstays. The practice has inspired little objection from scientists or the public and has caused no known health problems.

    The difference is that selective breeding or mutagenic techniques tend to result in large swaths of genes being swapped or altered. GM technology, in contrast, enables scientists to insert into a plant’s genome a single gene (or a few of them) from another species of plant or even from a bacterium, virus or animal. Supporters argue that this precision makes the technology much less likely to produce surprises. Most plant molecular biologists also say that in the highly unlikely case that an unexpected health threat emerged from a new GM plant, scientists would quickly identify and eliminate it. “We know where the gene goes and can measure the activity of every single gene around it,” Goldberg says. “We can show exactly which changes occur and which don’t.” [For more on how GM plants are analyzed for health safety, see “The Risks on the Table,” by Karen Hopkin; Scientific American, April 2001.]

    And although it might seem creepy to add virus DNA to a plant, doing so is, in fact, no big deal, proponents say. Viruses have been inserting their DNA into the genomes of crops, as well as humans and all other organisms, for millions of years. They often deliver the genes of other species while they are at it, which is why our own genome is loaded with genetic sequences that originated in viruses and nonhuman species. “When GM critics say that genes don’t cross the species barrier in nature, that’s just simple ignorance,” says Alan McHughen, a plant molecular geneticist at U.C. Riverside. Pea aphids contain fungi genes. Triticale is a century-plus-old hybrid of wheat and rye found in some flours and breakfast cereals. Wheat itself, for that matter, is a cross-species hybrid. “Mother Nature does it all the time, and so do conventional plant breeders,” McHughen says.

    Could eating plants with altered genes allow new DNA to work its way into our own? It is theoretically possible but hugely improbable. Scientists have never found genetic material that could survive a trip through the human gut and make it into cells. Besides, we are routinely exposed to—we even consume—the viruses and bacteria whose genes end up in GM foods. The bacterium B. thuringiensis, for example, which produces proteins fatal to insects, is sometimes enlisted as a natural pesticide in organic farming. “We’ve been eating this stuff for thousands of years,” Goldberg says.
    In any case, proponents say, people have consumed as many as trillions of meals containing genetically modified ingredients over the past few decades. Not a single verified case of illness has ever been attributed to the genetic alterations. Mark Lynas, a prominent anti-GM activist who last year publicly switched to strongly supporting the technology, has pointed out that every single news-making food disaster on record has been attributed to non-GM crops, such as the Escherichia coli–infected organic bean sprouts that killed 53 people in Europe in 2011.
    Critics often disparage U.S. research on the safety of genetically modified foods, which is often funded or even conducted by GM companies, such as Monsanto. But much research on the subject comes from the European Commission, the administrative body of the E.U., which cannot be so easily dismissed as an industry tool. The European Commission has funded 130 research projects, carried out by more than 500 independent teams, on the safety of GM crops. None of those studies found any special risks from GM crops.

    Plenty of other credible groups have arrived at the same conclusion. Gregory Jaffe, director of biotechnology at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a science-based consumer-watchdog group in Washington, D.C., takes pains to note that the center has no official stance, pro or con, with regard to genetically modifying food plants. Yet Jaffe insists the scientific record is clear. “Current GM crops are safe to eat and can be grown safely in the environment,” he says. The American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Medical Association and the National Academy of Sciences have all unreservedly backed GM crops. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, along with its counterparts in several other countries, has repeatedly reviewed large bodies of research and concluded that GM crops pose no unique health threats. Dozens of review studies carried out by academic researchers have backed that view.

    Opponents of genetically modified foods point to a handful of studies indicating possible safety problems. But reviewers have dismantled almost all of those reports. For example, a 1998 study by plant biochemist Árpád Pusztai, then at the Rowett Institute in Scotland, found that rats fed a GM potato suffered from stunted growth and immune system–related changes. But the potato was not intended for human consumption—it was, in fact, designed to be toxic for research purposes. The Rowett Institute later deemed the experiment so sloppy that it refuted the findings and charged Pusztai with misconduct.

    Similar stories abound. Most recently, a team led by Gilles-Éric Séralini, a researcher at the University of Caen Lower Normandy in France, found that rats eating a common type of GM corn contracted cancer at an alarmingly high rate. But Séralini has long been an anti-GM campaigner, and critics charged that in his study, he relied on a strain of rat that too easily develops tumors, did not use enough rats, did not include proper control groups and failed to report many details of the experiment, including how the analysis was performed. After a review, the European Food Safety Authority dismissed the study’s findings. Several other European agencies came to the same conclusion. “If GM corn were that toxic, someone would have noticed by now,” McHughen says. “Séralini has been refuted by everyone who has cared to comment.”

    Some scientists say the objections to GM food stem from politics rather than science—that they are motivated by an objection to large multinational corporations having enormous influence over the food supply; invoking risks from genetic modification just provides a convenient way of whipping up the masses against industrial agriculture. “This has nothing to do with science,” Goldberg says. “It’s about ideology.” Former anti-GM activist Lynas agrees. He recently went as far as labeling the anti-GM crowd “explicitly an antiscience movement.”
    Persistent Doubts

    Not all objections to genetically modified foods are so easily dismissed, however. Long-term health effects can be subtle and nearly impossible to link to specific changes in the environment. Scientists have long believed that Alzheimer’s disease and many cancers have environmental components, but few would argue we have identified all of them.

    And opponents say that it is not true that the GM process is less likely to cause problems simply because fewer, more clearly identified genes are switched. David Schubert, an Alzheimer’s researcher who heads the Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif., asserts that a single, well-characterized gene can still settle in the target plant’s genome in many different ways. “It can go in forward, backward, at different locations, in multiple copies, and they all do different things,” he says. And as U.C.L.A.’s Williams notes, a genome often continues to change in the successive generations after the insertion, leaving it with a different arrangement than the one intended and initially tested. There is also the phenomenon of “insertional mutagenesis,” Williams adds, in which the insertion of a gene ends up quieting the activity of nearby genes.

    True, the number of genes affected in a GM plant most likely will be far, far smaller than in conventional breeding techniques. Yet opponents maintain that because the wholesale swapping or alteration of entire packages of genes is a natural process that has been happening in plants for half a billion years, it tends to produce few scary surprises today. Changing a single gene, on the other hand, might turn out to be a more subversive action, with unexpected ripple effects, including the production of new proteins that might be toxins or allergens.

    Opponents also point out that the kinds of alterations caused by the insertion of genes from other species might be more impactful, more complex or more subtle than those caused by the intraspecies gene swapping of conventional breeding. And just because there is no evidence to date that genetic material from an altered crop can make it into the genome of people who eat it does not mean such a transfer will never happen—or that it has not already happened and we have yet to spot it. These changes might be difficult to catch; their impact on the production of proteins might not even turn up in testing. “You’d certainly find out if the result is that the plant doesn’t grow very well,” Williams says. “But will you find the change if it results in the production of proteins with long-term effects on the health of the people eating it?”

    It is also true that many pro-GM scientists in the field are unduly harsh—even unscientific—in their treatment of critics. GM proponents sometimes lump every scientist who raises safety questions together with activists and discredited researchers. And even Séralini, the scientist behind the study that found high cancer rates for GM-fed rats, has his defenders. Most of them are nonscientists, or retired researchers from obscure institutions, or nonbiologist scientists, but the Salk Institute’s Schubert also insists the study was unfairly dismissed. He says that as someone who runs drug-safety studies, he is well versed on what constitutes a good-quality animal toxicology study and that Séralini’s makes the grade. He insists that the breed of rat in the study is commonly used in respected drug studies, typically in numbers no greater than in Séralini’s study; that the methodology was standard; and that the details of the data analysis are irrelevant because the results were so striking.

    Schubert joins Williams as one of a handful of biologists from respected institutions who are willing to sharply challenge the GM-foods-are-safe majority. Both charge that more scientists would speak up against genetic modification if doing so did not invariably lead to being excoriated in journals and the media. These attacks, they argue, are motivated by the fear that airing doubts could lead to less funding for the field. Says Williams: “Whether it’s conscious or not, it’s in their interest to promote this field, and they’re not objective.”

    Both scientists say that after publishing comments in respected journals questioning the safety of GM foods, they became the victims of coordinated attacks on their reputations. Schubert even charges that researchers who turn up results that might raise safety questions avoid publishing their findings out of fear of repercussions. “If it doesn’t come out the right way,” he says, “you’re going to get trashed.”

    There is evidence to support that charge. In 2009 Nature detailed the backlash to a reasonably solid study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA by researchers from Loyola University Chicago and the University of Notre Dame. The paper showed that GM corn seemed to be finding its way from farms into nearby streams and that it might pose a risk to some insects there because, according to the researchers’ lab studies, caddis flies appeared to suffer on diets of pollen from GM corn. Many scientists immediately attacked the study, some of them suggesting the researchers were sloppy to the point of misconduct.

    A Way Forward

    There is a middle ground in this debate. Many moderate voices call for continuing the distribution of GM foods while maintaining or even stepping up safety testing on new GM crops. They advocate keeping a close eye on the health and environmental impact of existing ones. But they do not single out GM crops for special scrutiny, the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s Jaffe notes: all crops could use more testing. “We should be doing a better job with food oversight altogether,” he says.

    Even Schubert agrees. In spite of his concerns, he believes future GM crops can be introduced safely if testing is improved. “Ninety percent of the scientists I talk to assume that new GM plants are safety-tested the same way new drugs are by the fda,” he says. “They absolutely aren’t, and they absolutely should be.”
    Stepped-up testing would pose a burden for GM researchers, and it could slow down the introduction of new crops. “Even under the current testing standards for GM crops, most conventionally bred crops wouldn’t have made it to market,” McHughen says. “What’s going to happen if we become even more strict?”

    That is a fair question. But with governments and consumers increasingly coming down against GM crops altogether, additional testing may be the compromise that enables the human race to benefit from those crops’ significant advantages.

    This article was originally published with the title “Are Engineered Foods Evil?”

  3. Fran Diaz Says:

    How should we judge GM food ?
    With CAUTION.

    The human digestive tract is a sensitive part of the body. For some folk, even some organic foods are inimical if they are allergic to such foods – and GM foods may be worse.

    Some researchers may make out that certain GM foods are safe, quite forgetting that the digestive system has millions of bacteria of different types that may find GM foods inimical.
    Gut failure can result in many diseases.

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