GMOs are safe, says NAS

The National Academy of Sciences has published a report – Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects:

Human Health Effects:
GE crops and foods derived from them are tested in three ways: animal testing, compositional analysis, and aller-genicity testing and prediction. Although the design and analysis of many animal-feeding studies were not optimal, the many available animal experimental studies taken together provided reasonable evidence that animals were not harmed by eating foods derived from GE crops. Data on the nutrient and chemical composition of a GE plant compared to a similar non-GE variety of the crop some-times show statistically significant differences in nutrient and chemical composition, but the differences have been considered to fall within the range of naturally occurring variation found in currently available non-GE crops.
Many people are concerned that GE food consumption may lead to higher incidence of specific health problems including cancer, obesity, gastrointestinal tract illnesses, kidney disease, and disorders such as autism spectrum and allergies. In the absence of long-term, case-controlled studies to examine some hypotheses, the committee examined epidemiological datasets over time from the United States and Canada, where GE food has been consumed since the late 1990s, and similar datasets from the United Kingdom and western Europe, where GE food is not widely consumed. No pattern of differences was found among countries in specific health problems after the introduction of GE foods in the 1990s.

Glyphosate does not cause cancer (so far as we know)

Derek Lowe – Glyphosate and Cancer:

I went into one of those in detail here, and after looking into the case that it makes, I am willing to dismiss out of hand anything else Seneff has to say on the subject. It’s that bad. You will hear that “MIT researchers” have “proven” that glyphosate does X and Y and Z, and that this work is “published in peer-reviewed journals”, but nothing like that is true. Seneff has done no actual studies on glyphosate; she doesn’t work in a lab. Those papers are rehashes of stuff from the literature, piles of speculation and dot-connecting, and they’re invariably published in low-quality pay-to-play journals that do little or no actual refereeing of their contents. And their content is yet another problem – as shown in that link above, the paper that goes on and on about glyphosate’s effect on gut bacteria does not manage to cite any of the papers that have studied. . .glyphosate effects on bacteria. It not only doesn’t cite them, it seems to pretend that this research does not even exist, probably because all these papers contradict the fundamental ideas that Seneff’s tower of speculation is built on. She’s going around now saying that half of all children are going to be autistic (because of glyphosate), and that it’s also a root cause of not only cancer, but Alzheimer’s and a whole list of other diseases. If your knowledge of glyphosate’s toxicology comes only from reading the Seneff papers, I feel pity for you, because you have a lot of work ahead of you if you want to actually understand anything about it.

Scathing.

In considering the risk of cancer due to glyphosate, he compares it to the recent articles on bacon/cured meats and risks of cancer:

…that’s basically what happened recently with the IARC and its announcement on bacon being a cause of cancer. Under real-world conditions, eating a normal amount of bacon raise your risk of colorectal cancer by an amount too small to consider. But it does appear to be raising it by a reproducible, measurable amount, and therefore bacon (and other processed meats) are in the IARC’s category 1

And the conclusion:

So that’s the state of the art: there is, from what I can see, nothing very clearly linking glyphosate to human cancer. There’s certainly room for more evidence to come in, though, and it looks like we’re going to need it, because this is a topic that’s never going to go away until we have more data.

Consumers don’t really know food issues.

McFadden and Lusk, in their recent paper in FASEB Journal, What consumers don’t know about genetically modified food and how that affects beliefs:

New data collected from a nationwide U.S. survey reveal low levels of knowledge and numerous misperceptions about GM food. Nearly equal numbers of consumers prefer mandatory labeling of foods containing DNA as do those preferring mandatory labeling of GM foods.

Perhaps the survey captured an inordinate number of Food Babe acolytes.

More on GMO labeling

Marion Nestle for the Guardian – No amount of ‘free from’ labeling will make processed food good for you:

Let me add something about companies labeling their products GMO-free. In my view, the food biotechnology industry created this market – and greatly promoted the market for organics, which do not allow GMOs – by refusing to label which of its products contain GMOs and getting the FDA to go along with that decision. Whether or not GMOs are harmful, transparency in food marketing is hugely important to increasing segments of the public. People don’t trust the food industry to act in the public interest; transparency increases trust.

Consumer Reports on GMO labeling

Consumer Reports on GMO labeling – What you need to know about GMO labeling:

“Safety is not the point. Almost all the labels required on food—such as ingredients and fat content—are informational. So is GMO labeling,” says Jean Halloran, director of food policy initiatives at Consumers Union. “The debate over GMO labeling is about consumers’ right to know what they are eating.”

In a recent nationally representative poll from Consumer Reports, 92 percent of people said they want GMO labeling. Halloran adds, “other polls have had similar findings. The food industry should stop fighting the public’s right to know in court and start listening to what their customers want.”

If it’s not about safety, then what’s the point? The “ingredients and fat content” are for people to make decisions about their health. With GMO labeling is health really the issue? Does the public really know what the issues are with GMOs or is it just fear of the unknown?

Why label GMOs?

Beth Skwarecki at Lifehacker – GMO Labels Won’t Make Your Food Safer:

Concerns like Hirshberg’s about pesticides demonstrate why GMO labeling is useless. It won’t even do what the people campaigning for labels want it to do. As we’ve mentioned before, the things people don’t like about GMOs are not GMO-specific problems. Here are some things labeling won’t help with:

  • It won’t help you avoid pesticides. Both the insecticidal Bt toxin and the herbicidal Roundup chemical, glyphosate, are used in both GMO and non-GMO crops.
  • It won’t eliminate superweeds, since this ecological problem is not GMO-specific either. (Non-GMO sunflower oil is another big creator of superweeds, by the way)
  • It won’t keep unpredictable mutations out of crops’ DNA, because mutation breeding introduces more DNA damage than any “GMO” technology, and nobody’s labeling that.
  • It won’t prevent allergies, or make allergies easier to track down. GMOs are already tested for similarities to common allergens before they can be approved. If you do have an allergic reaction to an unusual protein in a particular crop, a “partially produced with genetic engineering” label doesn’t do anything to help track down which ingredient is at fault.

Well researched.

On GMO Labelling

Should there be mandatory GMO labelling?

Steven Novella:

The very notion of GMOs is a false dichotomy. Opponents then argue that transgenic GMOs, using genes from distant species that could not mix in nature, is different than the other methods. This is factually wrong and logically dubious.

The source of a gene is irrelevant, only its effect in the organism matters. Putting a fish gene in a tomato does not give you a fishmato, as anti-GMO propaganda suggests (and actually has convinced many naive people that such tomatoes would be fishy). Fish and tomatoes already share about 60% of their genes.

Novella draws similarities to the organic food debate, when pro-organic groups professed that organic foods were safer, healthier and more nutritious.

After the USDA organic label came into effect, the organic industry exploded, based on the false impression that organic produce is superior, and supported largely by the legitimacy that the USDA label conferred. All of the USDA caveats were promptly forgotten, if they were ever even noticed.

And Mark Lynas, as linked in Novella’s post:

I have long been of the opinion that GMO labeling is an issue that needs to be addressed with some kind of sensible compromise. (I made a speech supporting mandatory labeling back in 2013 in Chicago.) By taking a stance that appears to be opposing the consumer ‘right to know’, industry has not won itself any friends, and has cemented perceptions – eagerly built on by the anti-GMO lobby – that big corporations are trying to smuggle GMO products into the national food system.
We need better assurances from scientists and government agencies that GMO is safe. As for GMO labelling? I believe it should be voluntary.