The International Scientific Consensus On Genetically Engineered Food Safety

The term Scientific consensus is, by definition, an evidence-based consensus. It does not necessarily refer to 100% unanimity among all human beings, nor even among 100% of people trained in science. Rather, it refers to a consilience of scientific evidence upon which an overwhelming majority of scientists (whose areas of expertise are most pertinent) concede to what the evidence is showing.

It does not mean that every single nuance of every tangentially related question is known with absolute certainty. It just means that no credible reason remains for denying the implications of the evidence with respect to the bigger picture.

Many areas for which there is strong scientific consensus continue to be controversial topics among laypeople (i.e. GMO safety, vaccine efficacy and safety, evolution, Anthropogenic Global Warming, water fluoridation etc), but this is due almost exclusively to a combination of a lack of sufficient competence at evaluating the veracity and meaning of information related to a particular scientific field, and/or motivated reasoning rooted in staunch ideological opposition to something about the particular field of study and its findings. The Skeptical Raptor  explains the concept of scientific consensus in more detail here.

When we speak specifically of the scientific consensus with respect to the safety of Genetically Engineered Foods, which have had the misfortune of being stuck with the semantically misleading colloquial term of “Genetically Modified Organisms” (or just GMOs for short), we’re actually making two different claims:

1) All the currently approved commercially available crops that have been brought about via modern molecular genetic engineering techniques are at least as safe to consume (and are at least as safe for the environment) as their corresponding non-GE counterparts.

2) There is nothing about the process of modern genetic engineering that makes unpredicted dangers any more intrinsically likely than would be the case with other methods of altering an organism’s genome (I.e. Selective breeding radiation mutagenesis, polyploidy or wide cross hybridization). 

I can go into greater depth on point two in a later post, but insofar as point one is concerned, there is a formidable body of evidence to corroborate that conclusion, and an international scientific consensus based on it. Let’s take an overview of the evidence for this.

According to this assessment of the health impact of GM plant diets in long-term and multigenerational animal feeding trials: a literature review.

“Results from all the 24 studies do not suggest any health hazards and, in general, there were no statistically significant differences within parameters observed. However, some small differences were observed, though these fell within the normal variation range of the considered parameter and thus had no biological or toxicological significance. If required, a 90-day feeding study performed in rodents, according to the OECD Test Guideline, is generally considered sufficient in order to evaluate the health effects of GM feed. The studies reviewed present evidence to show that GM plants are nutritionally equivalent to their non-GM counterparts and can be safely used in food and feed.”

Here is an overview of the last 10 years of genetically engineered crop safety research, which incorporated nearly 1,800 studies into its analysis. The authors concluded the following:

“We have reviewed the scientific literature on GE crop safety for the last 10 years that catches the scientific consensus matured since GE plants became widely cultivated worldwide, and we can conclude that the scientific research conducted so far has not detected any significant hazard directly connected with the use of GM crops.”

The authors also acknowledge the discrepancy between the prevalent scientific viewpoint and public perception, and thus suggest the following:

“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.”

I can’t argue with that.

This study on Unintended Compositional Changes in Genetically Modified (GM) Crops: 20 Years of Research came to the following conclusion:

“It is concluded that suspect unintended compositional effects that could be caused by genetic modification have not materialized on the basis of this substantial literature. Hence, compositional equivalence studies uniquely required for GM crops may no longer be justified on the basis of scientific uncertainty.”

Here is a 100 Billion animal study with trillions of data points incorporating nearly 29 years of data (both prior to the introduction of GE foods and since) on the prevalence and impacts of genetically engineered feedstuffs on livestock populations. It did not reveal any unfavorable or perturbed trends in animal health or productivity.

Genera is a database with around 400 studies.
It’s only a fraction of the total number of studies that have been done on various aspects of GM crops. There are closer to 2,000 studies (at least) that exist, so the database is still a work in progress, but I like this database because it makes it easy to search by author, by document type, by funding type, by funding source, by subject matter under study, by crop trait, by date, by whether or not it’s open access, by publication status, by journal or a whole bunch of other search options.

Moreover, here are statements from independent national and international scientific bodies demonstrating the overwhelming international scientific consensus:

American Association for the Advancement of Science submitted the following:

”The science is quite clear: crop improvement by the modern molecular techniques of biotechnology is safe.”

This statement is from the American Medical Association:

”There is no scientific justification for special labeling of genetically modified foods. Bioengineered foods have been consumed for close to 20 years, and during that time, no overt consequences on human health have been reported and/or substantiated in the peer-reviewed literature.”

Here is the World Health Organization’s position:

”No effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of GM foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved.”

Although they have not declared an official position, the authors of this paper by The Royal Society of Medicine concluded the following:

”Foods derived from GM crops have been consumed by hundreds of millions of people across the world for more than 15 years, with no reported ill effects (or legal cases related to human health), despite many of the consumers coming from that most litigious of countries, the USA.”

The American Council on Science and Health submitted the following:

”[W]ith the continuing accumulation of evidence of safety and efficiency, and the complete absence of any evidence of harm to the public or the environment, more and more consumers are becoming as comfortable with agricultural biotechnology as they are with medical biotechnology.”

This statement was by the American Phytopathological Society:

”The American Phytopathological Society (APS), which represents approximately 5,000 scientists who work with plant pathogens, the diseases they cause, and ways of controlling them, supports biotechnology as a means for improving plant health, food safety, and sustainable growth in plant productivity.”

The American Society for Cell Biology takes the following position:

”Far from presenting a threat to the public health, GM crops in many cases improve it. The ASCB vigorously supports research and development in the area of genetically engineered organisms, including the development of genetically modified (GM) crop plants.”

This statement is from the American Society for Microbiology:

”The ASM is not aware of any acceptable evidence that food produced with biotechnology and subject to FDA oversight constitutes high risk or is unsafe. We are sufficiently convinced to assure the public that plant varieties and products created with biotechnology have the potential of improved nutrition, better taste and longer shelf-life.”

The American Society of Plant Biologists had this to say:

”The risks of unintended consequences of this type of gene transfer are comparable to the random mixing of genes that occurs during classical breeding. The ASPB believes strongly that, with continued responsible regulation and oversight, GE will bring many significant health and environmental benefits to the world and its people.”

The International Seed Federation issued this statement:

”The development of GM crops has benefited farmers, consumers and the environment… Today, data shows that GM crops and foods are as safe as their conventional counterparts: millions of hectares worldwide have been cultivated with GM crops and billions of people have eaten GM foods without any documented harmful effect on human health or the environment.”

Here’s one from the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology:

”Over the last decade, 8.5 million farmers have grown transgenic varieties of crops on more than 1 billion acres of farmland in 17 countries. These crops have been consumed by humans and animals in most countries. Transgenic crops on the market today are as safe to eat as their conventional counterparts, and likely more so given the greater regulatory scrutiny to which they are exposed.”

Here’s one from the Crop Science Society of America:

”The Crop Science Society of America supports education and research in all aspects of crop production, including the judicious application of biotechnology.”

The National Academy of Sciences said this:

“The introduction of GE crops has reduced pesticide use or the toxicity of pesticides used on fields where soybean, corn, and cotton are grown. Available evidence indicates that no-till practices and HR crops are complementary, and each has encouraged the other’s adoption. Conservation tillage, especially no-till, reduces soil erosion and can improve soil quality. The pesticide shifts and increase in conservation till-age with GE crops have generally benefited farmers who adopted them so far. Conservation tillage practices can also improve water quality by reducing the volume of runoff from farms into surface water, thereby reducing sedimentation and contamination from farm chemicals.”

The International Society of African Scientists made the following statement:

”Africa and the Caribbean cannot afford to be left further behind in acquiring the uses and benefits of this new agricultural revolution.”

The Federation of Animal Science Societies stated the following:

”Meat, milk and eggs from livestock and poultry consuming biotech feeds are safe for human consumption.”

The Society for In Vitro Biology said this:

”The SIVB supports the current science-based approach for the evaluation and regulation of genetically engineered crops. The SIVB supports the need for easy public access to available information on the safety of genetically modified crop products. In addition, the SIVB feels that foods from genetically modified crops, which are determined to be substantially equivalent to those made from crops, do not require mandatory labeling.”

The Society of Toxicology had the following to say:

“Scientific analysis indicates that the process of BD (Biotechnology-Derived) food production is unlikely to lead to hazards of a different nature from those already familiar to toxicologists. The safety of current BD foods, compared with their conventional counterparts, can be assessed with reasonable certainty using established and accepted methods of analytical, nutritional, and toxicological research.”

Transgenic Plants and World Agriculture – Prepared by the Royal Society of London, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the Brazilian Academy of Sciences, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Indian National Science Academy, the Mexican Academy of Sciences, and the Third World Academy of Sciences:

“Foods can be produced through the use of GM technology that are more nutritious, stable in storage, and in principle health promoting – bringing benefits to consumers in both industrialized and developing nations.”

There is  a pervasive myth that still lingers in anti-GMO circles (mostly in the US) that European scientists are more incredulous of GE food science than American scientists, that there exists some secret European science that nobody else has access to, and that this is the reason for some of the cultivation restrictions in certain European countries, but as this article explains (with direct references to official EU documents), this is not the case.

In fact, the EU themselves funded almost two decades of GMO research.

Although the commission has shied away from adopting an official position, their 18 year research project concluded the following:

“The main conclusion to be drawn from the efforts of more than 130 research projects, covering a period of more than 25 years of research, and involving more than 500 independent research groups, is that biotechnology, and in particular GMOs, are not per se more risky than e.g. conventional plant breeding technologies.” (page 16).

And here is a further elaboration on the EU’s position, policies and procedures.

The Union of the German Academies of Science and Humanities Commission Green Biotechnology Inter-Academy Panel Initiative on Generically Modified Organisms Group of the International Workshop Berlin concluded the following:

“In summary, the evidence suggests it to be most unlikely that the consumption of the well-characterised transgenic DNA from approved GMO food harbours any recognisable health risk.”

And  this:

”Food derived from GM plants approved in the EU and the US poses no risks greater than those from the corresponding conventional food. On the contrary, in some cases food from GM plants appears to be superior with respect to health.”

French Academy of Science said the following:

“This analysis shows that all the criticisms against GMOs can be largely dismissed on strictly scientific criteria.”

The following is a consensus document on GMOs Safety from 14 Italian scientific societies.

In case you don’t read Italian, their concluding remarks translate to roughly the following:

“GMOs are regulated by a regulatory framework that is unmatched in the food industry and therefore they prove to be more controlled than any other food product.

All the analysis for food safety assessment must also be carried out before placing them on the market.

It is appropriate to focus the analysis not so much on the technology with which these plants are produced, but rather on genetic traits inserted, following a case-by case evaluation.

GMOs on the market today, having successfully passed all the tests and procedures necessary for authorization must, on the basis of current knowledge, be safe to use as human and animal food.”

Finally, the National Academies Press published this impressively comprehensive work on the Impact of Genetically Engineered Crops on Farm Sustainability in the United States.

They evaluate each trait on its own individual merits and cover everything from food safety and environmental impact to biodiversity, gene flow between GE crops and weeds and non-GE crops, as well as crop yields, soil health and even economic and social repercussions. It’s rather spectacular actually, and probably worth bookmarking. A PDF copy is free on the condition that one creates an account on NAP (or at least signs in as a guest). If nothing else, at least check out their “key findings” (page 214) in which they state the following:

“The evidence shows that the planting of GE crops has largely resulted in less adverse or equivalent effects on the farm environment compared with the conventional non-GE systems that GE crops replaced. A key improvement has been the change to pesticide regimens that apply less pesticide or that use pesticides with lower toxicity to the environment but that have more consistent efficacy than conventional pesticide regimens used on non-GE versions of the crops. In the first phase of use, herbicide resistant (HR) crops have been associated with an increased use of conservation tillage, in particular no-till methods, that can improve water quality and enhance some soil-quality characteristics. That farmers who practice conservation tillage are more likely to adopt GE crops suggests the two technologies are complementary.”

In summary, there is an overwhelming international scientific consensus with regards to genetically engineered crops. The notion that “Big biotech bought off every study and credible scientific organization in the world” is the secular science-deniers’ version of “the devil put the fossils there to test our faith.”

Although some people may invent increasingly elaborate conspiracy narratives to dismiss the international scientific consensus as an illusion or a nefarious plot to deceive all the non-scientists, there is simply no credible evidence for this nor any plausible means by which a conspiracy of that scale could exist.

No, the RepShillian Shape-Shifters aren’t colluding with the Great Big PharMonSatan to control the intergalactic food supply and poison everyone for the Shilluminati Shadow Government’s depopulation operation for the NWO.

It’s time for a reality check.

BOOM!!!

Credible Hulk

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Image via AxisMundiOnline.

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