THE NATIONAL Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine already examined genetically engineered (GE) crops once, concluding six years ago that the facts do not justify the fears about “Frankenfoods.” Overblown worries nevertheless continue to proliferate, prompting a movement to stigmatize genetically engineered crops by requiring labels on food packaging. Meanwhile, the technology also has advanced: New tools will allow scientists to more precisely cut and paste genetic code. So the National Academies have again tried to sort things out, releasing another authoritative report Tuesday that refutes the counterproductive scaremongering from the anti-genetically-engineered side. It also points to a bright future in which these crops help solve a range of problems — if governments get the policy right.
The National Academies experts reviewed the relevant studies and solicited huge amounts of feedback. The upshot? “No differences have been found that implicate a higher risk to human health safety from these GE foods than from their non-GE counterparts,” they concluded. They based their findings partially on a comparison of European countries, where genetically engineered crops generally are not used, and the United States, where they are plentiful. They could find no significant differences attributable to genetically engineered crops, across a range of diseases and disorders.
Moreover, the experts concluded, “the committee found no conclusive evidence of cause-and-effect relationships between GE crops and environmental problems.” Among other things, the scientists found concerns that the crops are degrading plant and animal biodiversity to be insubstantial.