Ethan Kessler: There's nothing dangerous or bad about the principle of GM foods and crops.

Ethan Kessler: There’s nothing dangerous or bad about the principle of GM foods and crops.

One of our Skepti-Forum members, Ethan Kessler, provides several sources countering many of the common misconceptions we often see shared around the Internet condemning GMOs.

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In general, there’s nothing dangerous or bad about the principle of GM foods and crops.

Genetically modified crops are not killing the honey bees:

In addition, Monarch butterflies are not harmed by GM crops:

Overall, “The risks potentially posed by transgenic plants, especially Bt crops, to the environment have been extensively assessed worldwide over the past 10 years, and no scientific evidence has shown that the cultivation of Bt crops has caused sustained environmental harm to communities of soil organisms, such as nematodes, earthworms, collembolans or mites”

In order for the genetically engineered (GE) crops to be successful, a reduction in biodiversity is to be expected. Still, according to a review of 1,783 research papers, “On the other hand, higher reductions on biodiversity is generally expected with non-GE crops and herbicide/insecticide applications, because the chemicals used are often more toxic and persistent in the environment”

 Ultimately, most studies find that GM foods don’t have a significant impact on animal health:

Specifically, GM foods do not affect the reproductive system in animals:

A detailed review concluded that DNA from GM food cannot be incorporated into our DNA, and that the proteins encoded by the genes inserted into GM crops are not toxic or allergenic:

Just to be safe, “pre-screening of transgenic proteins through bioinformatic analyses contributes to avoid the introduction of potentially toxic, allergenic or bioactive proteins into food and feed crops”

Indeed, GMOs are highly regulated – possibly more so than conventional food products. As concluded by 14 different Italian scientific societies (translated by Google Translate), “GMOs are regulated by a regulatory framework that is unmatched in the food and therefore appear to be more controlled than any other food product… GMOs on the market today, having successfully passed all the tests and procedures necessary to authorization, are to be considered, on the basis of current knowledge, safe to use for human and animal consumption”

Food acquired from GM crops have not affected the health of the world-wide population, even after 15 years of consumption by millions of people:

Here’s what the International Seed Federation has to say, “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”

Despite what some folks say, many independent research groups have researched GMOs, and their conclusions are not anti-GMO. Even the European Union declared, “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”

Broadly speaking, genetic modification is nothing new.

While many people think of crossbreeding as natural, it is still – at its core – genetic splicing. Like it or not, hybridization changes the DNA. Name one crop that has never been modified in any way, by humans, in the history of us being farmers. Nearly all foods found in supermarkets and even the local organic farmer’s market have been highly genetically manipulated to produce the most desirable traits.

The only difference is that when it’s done in a lab, we know exactly what’s happening at the genetic level (especially for species where the entire gene code has been sequenced), and are actually more likely to end up with the exact results we want.

It’s unreasonable to argue that genetic engineering is in any way more harmful when the opposite is more likely to be true. With modern genetic engineering, single genes are added, altered, or removed specific to known desired result. With artificial selection, hundreds of genes are altered in ambiguous and unpredictable ways.

Basically, there’s no reason why the GMO discussion should be inundated with panic. Let’s look at the GMO debate with a clear mind.

Photo Credit: ZEISS Microscopy | CC