Are Genetically Modified Crops safe for us?

All breeding leads to genetic changes, but in recent decades, advances in the field of genetic engineering have allowed  control over the genetic changes introduced into an organism. The process of genetic engineering is the targeted manipulation of a plant’s or animal’s DNA to modify specific traits,  involving the incorporation of new genes from one species into a completely unrelated species.  Crop plants, farm animals, and soil bacteria are some of the prominent examples of organisms that have been subject to genetic engineering. The crops or organisms being developed by such a process are known as Genetically Modified Crops or Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). The initial objective for developing plants based on GM organisms was to improve crop protection. The GM crops currently on the market are mainly aimed at an increased level of crop protection through the introduction of resistance against plant diseases caused by insects or viruses or through increased tolerance towards herbicides.

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But the discussion of my present topic is:

Are Genetically Modified Crops/Food safe for human consumption?

The answer is YES, although there are still ongoing for and against debates over this issue. However,  the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the European Commission, the American Medical Association and the scientific academies of Britain, France and Germany reviewed the evidence and concur that existing GM foods are as safe and nutritious as conventional varieties. These organizations believe that genetic engineering and GE crops should be considered important options in the efforts toward sustainable agricultural production. http://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Nicolia-20131.pdf .

Global food production is facing several challenges such as climate change, population growth, and competition for arable lands.  For this reason, conserving land to produce more food is a necessity for any long term plan. Biotechnology firms claim that transgenic crops promise bigger yields to create more efficient use of land, better resistance to weeds, pest and other diseases, , less use of herbicides and other pesticides, have better texture, flavor and nutritional value, and have a longer shelf life for easier shipping. In short, GM foods can create an essential sustainable way to feed the world.

18 Comments on “Are Genetically Modified Crops safe for us?

  1. The first part of this is correct. Because the corporations producing GMO food products could not stay in business if those food products were unsafe, you can pretty much rest assured that they make every effort to avoid risk. Economics take care of that safety issue.

    However, the second part – the potential impact of GMOs on the environment, including use of pesticides, etc. – is much less certain. Because it takes a long time to assess environmental outcomes (think, for example, about DDT), corporations are safe in the short term ignoring those risks. Unfortunately, that means that there is little effort to identify such risks – it’s hard to get such research funded – and so we all live with uncertainty about the ecological/environmental impacts of GMOs.

    As a professional ecologist, I feel pretty sure there will be some negative impacts of deploying these organisms. Some of those can be seen already, such as increased – NOT decreased – pesticide use as pests adapt to GMO-linked pesticides (e.g., Roundup). The best we can say is the jury is out – but watch out!

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    • I respectfully disagree about the pesticide volume, at least here in the USA. GMO corn is the base of our food chain. Before the advent of the corn borer resistant (the first being BT) the use of organophospates measured thousands of tons. There are lots of weed killers now that make the old 2-4D obsolete, since500ml of 2-4D, with its dioxin, is replaced with quantities measured in grams. Atrazine is at a much lower volume than ever before.

      Best of all, the modern herbicides and insecticides are engineered to be rendered inert by bacteria in about 90 days, a feature not found in the older products.

      Perhaps you can tell me how you concluded that GMO’s increased the use of pesticides?

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      • Here in Missouri as well as other places you’ll find many – perhaps most – weeds resistant to Roundup. As a result, people apply more, which increases selection for resistance and winds up increasing application even more. Of course the impact of use shouldn’t be measured as tons or grams but in chemical/ecological effects. Right now in Missouri, USA, you’ll have a heck of a time weeding with Roundup. I’m pretty sure there are data to support this, but I’m not about to get into a back-and-forth on this. I’m no expert and don’t want to get dragged into the fray. Besides, it depends on what GMO, what pesticide, and how long it’s been in use. You could look here (and lots of other places): http://www.enveurope.com/content/24/1/24 but I am NOT promoting that or any other data set as the ultimate answer.

        I guess – and again, I’m not an expert – that the recommendations peptide and GMO producers make for deployment to reduce evolution of resistance, like planting refugia, are not widely used by growers and so are not effective.

        To be completely clear (and avoid arguments, I hope) my contribution to the discussion going on here can be summarized this way: I think that mid- and long-term impacts of GMO deployment don’t get enough research attention, and so no one can or should be drawing conclusions one way or another. I am neither pro-GMO nor against GMOs. I am for long term sustainability of both agricultural approaches and environmental quality/services.

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  2. Reblogged this on seekingscience and commented:
    Dear Prof. Schultz,
    I completely agree with you what you want to tell.
    The GM crops are still under careful evaluation of their potential risks on the environment. But according to the research being mentioned in the link,
    http://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Nicolia-20131.pdf which I have posted in my article, there are positive outcomes for the same, although the debate is still on.

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    • That’s kind of a selective review; some pretty important papers are not cited. And the situation is WAY more complicated than those authors were willing to consider. “Some positive outcomes” isn’t enough. DDT has positive outcomes, too, but some negatives that took decades to recognize.

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  3. Jack, in your short summary of outstanding issues you may have overlooked the unintended propagation of GE spores/seeds/eggs. Buffer zones and hygiene measures prove ineffective, and the inclusion of ‘terminator genes’ has been stopped by the developers ‘because of public outcry’. First, many conventional F1-hybrids are terminated since over 150 years, without any problems from the growers, and second, I would be amazed if the developers would care about bad publicity, in view of what we see today. What do you think?

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    • I really don’t want to get into a lengthy back and forth on this (it could eat us all alive) but I did notice that papers on the phenomena you mention (which are real concerns) by Loren Rieseberg and Allison Snow are not included in the review cited by curiouscience. The point I’d like to have linger in people’s minds is that while GMOs are safe to eat, the research necessary to assess their environmental impacts isn’t being done at a rate that’ll head off potential problems if they occur.

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      • Yes, I do accept that the papers by Loren Rieseberg and Allison Snow are not being cited in the review article mentioned by me.
        On the other hand, the environmental and ecological concerns associated with GM crops are evaluated prior to their release. Also, additional resistance management practices as well as post-approval monitoring are being performed for the GM crops and their immediate environment, and also being constantly evaluated for any changes, even the crop has been released.

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        • This is simply false: “the environmental and ecological concerns associated with GM crops are evaluated prior to their release.” Compliance with resistance management practice requirements is spotty at best and enforcement is lax.

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  4. Jack is perfectly right when he says: “Compliance with resistance management practice requirements is spotty at best and enforcement is lax.” Preregistration risk assessment and post registration management are related, but entirely different operations. Proof that the latter is badly implemented is the wide spread contamination of non GMO crops. Likewise, the recent introduction of GE salmon is very bad news for wildlife management.

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  5. I have seen similar “discrepancies” (perhaps not the correct word) within research and associated follow up of this research as many times the parameters involved are too wide to define and measure. Using statistical models to support research is often used to support this, and the percentage of error grows exponentially with the amount of parameters preemptively excluded. Unfortunately within this context, when compliance and enforcement is lax, the possibility of significant adverse environmental impact becomes larger.

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  6. “GM foods can create an essential sustainable way to feed the world” As it is now, GM crops are neither sustainable, nor essential outside the US and some S. American countries. And a far cry from feeding the world.

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  7. Global Distribution of Genetically Modified (GM) Crops http://chartsbin.com/view/578 Every step brings us closer from the possibility to feed the world. I agree on the sustainability aspect, as the business models at the moment are only geared towards short-term profits, but I do think that GMO are and will be essential for us (the world) to feed us. How can we do this sustainably? My opinion is that, we can only do this with respect for every living being.

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  8. Jack Schultz: Note here that resistance management is a very big part of the GMO’s being developed as we speak. In the case of corn borer, most of the new products use 2 or 3 modes of actions, which creates a multiplying effect. Better yet, the corn of today has a built in breeding ground for the suceptible insects by having 5% of the plants being non-GMO.

    Many of the herbicides have the same mentality: have 2 or 3 modes of action, so the weeds have a much lower survival rate. The result is of course much slower development of resistances, yet those herbicides still have pretty low rates of application.

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  9. Genetigally modified organism is good to human consumsion because most people in the world use it but they have not affect in any way. When praparing for human use is problem, cooking and prossessing is problem. Treatment of these GMOs have let poisoning also in the field the chemicals use affect GMOs. In this case testing must be done to chemicals used and the way we are surpose to treat.

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  10. I have a reason to believe that Organic Farming and Gardening versus Chemicals is the only way to save our fertile soil. Fertile soil without chemicals grows Healthy plants that pass Healthy food up the food chain for Healthy Humans and Animals. I was Farming the Conventional way (Chemical). I experimented in 1950 doing Organic and Chemicals together. For three years I did both together and two experiments that convinced me that Organic was Superior and changed completely to Organic in 1953. In 1958 I won many awards in contests in Vermont and New England over hundreds of Chemical Farmers. I wrote a Book “Learned by the Fencepost”– Lessons in Organic Farming and Gardening — published in 2011. I wrote it so any lay person can understand it. My Education was on the Dairy Farm in Vermont. The Book can be reviewed on Amazon and Kindle by typing the Title on Google. My email address is inside Kindle review. I would like to hear from you. I enjoyed writing it, as I was encouraged to do so, before my procedures were lost.
    I have been very pleased with response where other Farmers and Gardeners have read my book or used the similar procedures I have. All have said their soil continues to get better every year and produces more and better produce. Chemicals make for an impressive stimulated plant but do nothing for keeping our soils fertile where all our healthy food comes from.

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  11. I do-not trust GMO’S anymore than I excepted Herbicides in 1949. The only and last year I used it. I questioned our Agronomist about what the continued use might do to the soils and lasting effects. He said there was nothing lasting as it dissipated in six to seven weeks. I asked how do you know. It does accumulate in the soil and is passed up the food chain by plants and is found in human blood. The GMO’S are being treated the same way. No one knows what the long term effects will be. Also the GMO’S to keep the produce from spoiling for longer shelf life. Many years ago the saying was to not eat any food that will not spoil but eat it before it does. How can food that is delayed in spoiling be digested and get the full benefit from it.

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