|Owner||Council for Biotechnology Information|
GMO Answers launched by the agricultural biotechnology industry in July 2013 to answer consumers' questions about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in crops in the U.S. food supply. GMO Answers was created in part to respond to public concern about the safety of GMOs. GMO Answers "expert resources" include conventional and organic farmers, agribusiness experts, scientists, academics, medical doctors and nutritionists, and "company experts" from founding members of the Council for Biotechnology Information, which funds the initiative. Founding members include BASF, Bayer CropScience, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont, Monsanto Company and Syngenta.
Cathleen Enright, then executive director of Council for Biotechnology Information, said GMO Answers was not specifically created to advocate against GMO labeling, but rather to provide accurate information about GMOs to consumers: "We have been accused of purposely hiding information. We haven't done that but now we will open the doors and provide information."
Anti-GMO activists characterized GMO Answers as a public relations ploy by the seed biotech industry to influence an intensifying debate concerning the safety of GMOs and GMO labeling.
The safety of GMOs has been described as the "most visible and contentious" public debate regarding food production technologies used in the U.S. food supply chain. In a January 2013 New York Times poll, 93 percent of respondents said that foods containing GMOs or genetically engineered ingredients should be identified. The Pew Research Center conducted a survey of 1,480 Americans and the results showed that over a third of Americans believe genetically modified food poses health risks. The survey made the statement, "GM foods are ___ for health than non-GM foods." 39% of the respondents responded "worse", 48% responded, no better or no worse, 10% responded better, leaving 3% of respondents that didn't answer the question. The data shows there is still a tendency for the average American to believe GM food is worse for health. Polls by the Oklahoma State University Department of Agricultural Economics have shown that over 80 percent of respondents supported mandatory labels of genetically modified food, but the same number supported labels for food containing DNA.
There is a scientific consensus that currently available food derived from GM crops poses no greater risk to human health than conventional food, but that each GM food needs to be tested on a case-by-case basis before introduction. Nonetheless, members of the public are much less likely than scientists to perceive GM foods as safe. The legal and regulatory status of GM foods varies by country, with some nations banning or restricting them, and others permitting them with widely differing degrees of regulation.
GMO labeling legislation
Growing consumer interest in transparency regarding food production has given rise to GMO labeling initiatives across the U.S. in several states. In 2012 and 2013, GMO labeling ballot initiatives were defeated in California and Washington state. Also in December 2013, Connecticut became the first state in the U.S. to enact GMO labeling legislation, followed by Maine a month later. The Connecticut and Maine bills required that any combination of contiguous Northeast states totaling at least 20 million residents must adopt similar laws in order for the regulations to take effect.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science, the World Health Organization and the exceptionally vigilant European Union agree that GMOs are just as safe as other foods ... The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has tested all the GMOs on the market to determine whether they are toxic or allergenic. They are not.
GMO labeling initiatives by U.S. food producers
In 2013, several U.S. food producers announced plans to label or disclose the presence of GMOs in their products, including grocery retailer Whole Foods Market, restaurant chain Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc., and ice cream maker Ben & Jerry's. In January 2014, General Mills, Inc. announced that it began manufacturing GMO-free original Cheerios in late 2013.
In July 2013, the seed biotech industry and its partners in farming and agriculture launched the GMOAnswers.com website "to combat mounting opposition to genetically modified foods among consumer groups and activists." GMO Answers' stated goal is to "make information about GMOs in food and agriculture easier to access and understand." Cathleen Enright, then executive director of Council for Biotechnology Information, said, "Clearly we've not been in the conversation. With the elevation of the GMO conversation nationally, we identified the need last year to get into the game."
Also in July 2013, Paul Schickler, president of DuPont Pioneer, the agricultural unit of DuPont, said anti-GMO interests had used the Internet effectively to disseminate their message, and that the seed biotech industry sought to employ the Internet and social media channels to similar effect: "[GMOAnswers.com] is an effort to increase the dialogue ... Over time I think we'll come to a common understanding."
Robert Fraley, executive vice president and chief technology officer for Monsanto, said the company has been "focused on giving technology and tools to farmers to improve their productivity and yield and we haven't spent nearly the time we have needed to on talking to consumers and talking to social media."
The GMOAnswers.com website, which invites visitors to submit questions about GMOs, includes browsable questions and answers; an "Explore the Basics" section; studies and articles by biotechnology experts; and data about countries that certify genetically-modified products.
According to GMO Answers, "more than 100 experts have contributed to this site including conventional and organic farmers, agribusiness experts, scientists, academics, medical doctors and nutritionists," as well as "company experts" from the founding members of the Council for Biotechnology Information, which funds GMO Answers.
The following sampling of questions have been posted and answered on GMOAnswers.com:
- Do GMOs cause cancer?
- How many people have died over GMOs?
- Have GMO seeds, unknowingly, cross-contaminated with non-GMO crops?
- Why are genetically modified crops increasing the use of herbicides and pesticides? I thought the claim was that they would decrease use?
- If GMOs are the answer to the food shortages why do food prices keep going up?
- How is biodiversity impacted by the introduction of GM crops? Is the current set of crops being replaced with a smaller, less biologically diverse set of GM crops? If so, is there an increased risk of a much larger-scale impact from the adaptation of infectious diseases or pests? If there are increased risks, how are scientists, businesses, farmers and regulatory agencies managing this risk?
GMO Answers cites five core principles to which members and partners of GMO Answers have committed:
- Respecting people around the world and their right to choose healthy food products that are best for themselves and their families;
- Welcoming and answering questions on all GMO topics;
- Making GMO information, research and data easy to access and evaluate and supporting safety testing of GM products; including allowing independent safety testing of our products through validated science-based methods;
- Supporting farmers as they work to grow crops using precious resources more efficiently, with less impact on the environment and producing safe, nutritious food and feed products;
- Respecting farmers' rights to choose the seeds that are best for their farms, businesses and communities and providing seed choices that include non-GM seeds based on market demands.
Supporting partners of GMO Answers include the American Council on Science and Health, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Seed Trade Association, American Soybean Association, American Sugarbeet Growers Association, Ohio AgriBusiness Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Corn Growers Association, National Cotton Council, South Dakota Agri-Business Association, and the U.S. Beet Sugar Association.
More claims from the biotech industry about the safety of genetic engineering are not a replacement for the clear labeling that consumers are demanding.
Instead of responding to legitimate consumer concerns about the safety of these products, the industry has created a charade of transparency on their new website, innocuously named 'GMO Answers' ... Whenever their products are scrutinized and called into question, the agrichemical industry consistently turns to bigger and better PR rather than addressing the real issues at hand.
- Pollack, Andrew. "Seeking Support, Biotech Food Companies Pledge Transparency". New York Times. Retrieved 19 June 2014.
- "Experts". GMO Answers. Retrieved 19 June 2014.
- "Founding Members". GMO Answers. Retrieved 19 June 2014.
- Haspel, Tamar. "GMO labeling: Is the fight worth it?". Retrieved 19 June 2014.
- Kopicki, Allison. "Strong Support for Labeling Modified Foods". New York Times. Retrieved 19 June 2014.
- "The New Food Fights: U.S. Public Divides Over Food Science". Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech. 2016-12-01. Retrieved 2018-08-30.
- Somin, Ilya (17 January 2015). "Over 80 percent of Americans support "mandatory labels on foods containing DNA"". Washington Post. Retrieved 6 March 2018.
- Nicolia, Alessandro; Manzo, Alberto; Veronesi, Fabio; Rosellini, Daniele (2013). "An overview of the last 10 years of genetically engineered crop safety research" (PDF). Critical Reviews in Biotechnology. 34 (1): 1–12. doi:10.3109/07388551.2013.823595. PMID 24041244.
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 literature about Biodiversity and the GE food/feed consumption has sometimes resulted in animated debate regarding the suitability of the experimental designs, the choice of the statistical methods or the public accessibility of data. Such debate, even if positive and part of the natural process of review by the scientific community, has frequently been distorted by the media and often used politically and inappropriately in anti-GE crops campaigns.
- "State of Food and Agriculture 2003–2004. Agricultural Biotechnology: Meeting the Needs of the Poor. Health and environmental impacts of transgenic crops". Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
Currently available transgenic crops and foods derived from them have been judged safe to eat and the methods used to test their safety have been deemed appropriate. These conclusions represent the consensus of the scientific evidence surveyed by the ICSU (2003) and they are consistent with the views of the World Health Organization (WHO, 2002). These foods have been assessed for increased risks to human health by several national regulatory authorities (inter alia, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, the United Kingdom and the United States) using their national food safety procedures (ICSU). To date no verifiable untoward toxic or nutritionally deleterious effects resulting from the consumption of foods derived from genetically modified crops have been discovered anywhere in the world (GM Science Review Panel). Many millions of people have consumed foods derived from GM plants – mainly maize, soybean and oilseed rape – without any observed adverse effects (ICSU).
- Ronald, Pamela (5 May 2011). "Plant Genetics, Sustainable Agriculture and Global Food Security". Genetics. 188 (1): 11–20. doi:10.1534/genetics.111.128553. PMC 3120150. PMID 21546547.
There is broad scientific consensus that genetically engineered crops currently on the market are safe to eat. After 14 years of cultivation and a cumulative total of 2 billion acres planted, no adverse health or environmental effects have resulted from commercialization of genetically engineered crops (Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources, Committee on Environmental Impacts Associated with Commercialization of Transgenic Plants, National Research Council and Division on Earth and Life Studies 2002). Both the U.S. National Research Council and the Joint Research Centre (the European Union's scientific and technical research laboratory and an integral part of the European Commission) have concluded that there is a comprehensive body of knowledge that adequately addresses the food safety issue of genetically engineered crops (Committee on Identifying and Assessing Unintended Effects of Genetically Engineered Foods on Human Health and National Research Council 2004; European Commission Joint Research Centre 2008). These and other recent reports conclude that the processes of genetic engineering and conventional breeding are no different in terms of unintended consequences to human health and the environment (European Commission Directorate-General for Research and Innovation 2010).
- But see also:
Domingo, José L.; Bordonaba, Jordi Giné (2011). "A literature review on the safety assessment of genetically modified plants" (PDF). Environment International. 37 (4): 734–42. doi:10.1016/j.envint.2011.01.003. PMID 21296423.
In spite of this, the number of studies specifically focused on safety assessment of GM plants is still limited. However, it is important to remark that for the first time, a certain equilibrium in the number of research groups suggesting, on the basis of their studies, that a number of varieties of GM products (mainly maize and soybeans) are as safe and nutritious as the respective conventional non-GM plant, and those raising still serious concerns, was observed. Moreover, it is worth mentioning that most of the studies demonstrating that GM foods are as nutritional and safe as those obtained by conventional breeding, have been performed by biotechnology companies or associates, which are also responsible of commercializing these GM plants. Anyhow, this represents a notable advance in comparison with the lack of studies published in recent years in scientific journals by those companies.
Krimsky, Sheldon (2015). "An Illusory Consensus behind GMO Health Assessment" (PDF). Science, Technology, & Human Values. 40 (6): 1–32. doi:10.1177/0162243915598381.
I began this article with the testimonials from respected scientists that there is literally no scientific controversy over the health effects of GMOs. My investigation into the scientific literature tells another story.
Panchin, Alexander Y.; Tuzhikov, Alexander I. (14 January 2016). "Published GMO studies find no evidence of harm when corrected for multiple comparisons". Critical Reviews in Biotechnology. 37 (2): 1–5. doi:10.3109/07388551.2015.1130684. ISSN 0738-8551. PMID 26767435.
Here, we show that a number of articles some of which have strongly and negatively influenced the public opinion on GM crops and even provoked political actions, such as GMO embargo, share common flaws in the statistical evaluation of the data. Having accounted for these flaws, we conclude that the data presented in these articles does not provide any substantial evidence of GMO harm.
The presented articles suggesting possible harm of GMOs received high public attention. However, despite their claims, they actually weaken the evidence for the harm and lack of substantial equivalency of studied GMOs. We emphasize that with over 1783 published articles on GMOs over the last 10 years it is expected that some of them should have reported undesired differences between GMOs and conventional crops even if no such differences exist in reality.
Yang, Y.T.; Chen, B. (2016). "Governing GMOs in the USA: science, law and public health". Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. 96 (6): 1851–55. doi:10.1002/jsfa.7523. PMID 26536836.
It is therefore not surprising that efforts to require labeling and to ban GMOs have been a growing political issue in the USA (citing Domingo and Bordonaba, 2011).
Overall, a broad scientific consensus holds that currently marketed GM food poses no greater risk than conventional food ... Major national and international science and medical associations have stated that no adverse human health effects related to GMO food have been reported or substantiated in peer-reviewed literature to date.
Despite various concerns, today, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the World Health Organization, and many independent international science organizations agree that GMOs are just as safe as other foods. Compared with conventional breeding techniques, genetic engineering is far more precise and, in most cases, less likely to create an unexpected outcome.
- "Statement by the AAAS Board of Directors On Labeling of Genetically Modified Foods" (PDF). American Association for the Advancement of Science. 20 October 2012. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
The EU, for example, has invested more than €300 million in research on the biosafety of GMOs. Its recent report states: "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." The World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the British Royal Society, and every other respected organization that has examined the evidence has come to the same conclusion: consuming foods containing ingredients derived from GM crops is no riskier than consuming the same foods containing ingredients from crop plants modified by conventional plant improvement techniques.
Pinholster, Ginger (25 October 2012). "AAAS Board of Directors: Legally Mandating GM Food Labels Could "Mislead and Falsely Alarm Consumers"". American Association for the Advancement of Science. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
- "A decade of EU-funded GMO research (2001–2010)" (PDF). Directorate-General for Research and Innovation. Biotechnologies, Agriculture, Food. European Commission, European Union. 2010. doi:10.2777/97784. ISBN 978-92-79-16344-9. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
- "AMA Report on Genetically Modified Crops and Foods (online summary)". American Medical Association. January 2001. Retrieved 19 March 2016.
A report issued by the scientific council of the American Medical Association (AMA) says that no long-term health effects have been detected from the use of transgenic crops and genetically modified foods, and that these foods are substantially equivalent to their conventional counterparts. (from online summary prepared by ISAAA)" "Crops and foods produced using recombinant DNA techniques have been available for fewer than 10 years and no long-term effects have been detected to date. These foods are substantially equivalent to their conventional counterparts. (from original report by AMA: )
"Report 2 of the Council on Science and Public Health (A-12): Labeling of Bioengineered Foods" (PDF). American Medical Association. 2012. Archived from the original on 7 September 2012. Retrieved 19 March 2016.
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.
- "Restrictions on Genetically Modified Organisms: United States. Public and Scholarly Opinion". Library of Congress. 9 June 2015. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
Several scientific organizations in the US have issued studies or statements regarding the safety of GMOs indicating that there is no evidence that GMOs present unique safety risks compared to conventionally bred products. These include the National Research Council, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Medical Association. Groups in the US opposed to GMOs include some environmental organizations, organic farming organizations, and consumer organizations. A substantial number of legal academics have criticized the US's approach to regulating GMOs.
- "Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects". The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (US). 2016. p. 149. Retrieved 19 May 2016.
Overall finding on purported adverse effects on human health of foods derived from GE crops: On the basis of detailed examination of comparisons of currently commercialized GE with non-GE foods in compositional analysis, acute and chronic animal toxicity tests, long-term data on health of livestock fed GE foods, and human epidemiological data, the committee found no differences that implicate a higher risk to human health from GE foods than from their non-GE counterparts.
- "Frequently asked questions on genetically modified foods". World Health Organization. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
Different GM organisms include different genes inserted in different ways. This means that individual GM foods and their safety should be assessed on a case-by-case basis and that it is not possible to make general statements on the safety of all GM foods.
GM foods currently available on the international market have passed safety assessments and are not likely to present risks for human health. In addition, no effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved. Continuous application of safety assessments based on the Codex Alimentarius principles and, where appropriate, adequate post market monitoring, should form the basis for ensuring the safety of GM foods.
- Haslberger, Alexander G. (2003). "Codex guidelines for GM foods include the analysis of unintended effects". Nature Biotechnology. 21 (7): 739–41. doi:10.1038/nbt0703-739. PMID 12833088.
These principles dictate a case-by-case premarket assessment that includes an evaluation of both direct and unintended effects.
- Some medical organizations, including the British Medical Association, advocate further caution based upon the precautionary principle:
"Genetically modified foods and health: a second interim statement" (PDF). British Medical Association. March 2004. Retrieved 21 March 2016.
In our view, the potential for GM foods to cause harmful health effects is very small and many of the concerns expressed apply with equal vigour to conventionally derived foods. However, safety concerns cannot, as yet, be dismissed completely on the basis of information currently available.
When seeking to optimise the balance between benefits and risks, it is prudent to err on the side of caution and, above all, learn from accumulating knowledge and experience. Any new technology such as genetic modification must be examined for possible benefits and risks to human health and the environment. As with all novel foods, safety assessments in relation to GM foods must be made on a case-by-case basis.
Members of the GM jury project were briefed on various aspects of genetic modification by a diverse group of acknowledged experts in the relevant subjects. The GM jury reached the conclusion that the sale of GM foods currently available should be halted and the moratorium on commercial growth of GM crops should be continued. These conclusions were based on the precautionary principle and lack of evidence of any benefit. The Jury expressed concern over the impact of GM crops on farming, the environment, food safety and other potential health effects.
The Royal Society review (2002) concluded that the risks to human health associated with the use of specific viral DNA sequences in GM plants are negligible, and while calling for caution in the introduction of potential allergens into food crops, stressed the absence of evidence that commercially available GM foods cause clinical allergic manifestations. The BMA shares the view that that there is no robust evidence to prove that GM foods are unsafe but we endorse the call for further research and surveillance to provide convincing evidence of safety and benefit.
- Funk, Cary; Rainie, Lee (29 January 2015). "Public and Scientists' Views on Science and Society". Pew Research Center. Retrieved 24 February 2016.
The largest differences between the public and the AAAS scientists are found in beliefs about the safety of eating genetically modified (GM) foods. Nearly nine-in-ten (88%) scientists say it is generally safe to eat GM foods compared with 37% of the general public, a difference of 51 percentage points.
- Marris, Claire (2001). "Public views on GMOs: deconstructing the myths". EMBO Reports. 2 (7): 545–48. doi:10.1093/embo-reports/kve142. PMC 1083956. PMID 11463731.
- Final Report of the PABE research project (December 2001). "Public Perceptions of Agricultural Biotechnologies in Europe". Commission of European Communities. Retrieved 24 February 2016.
- Scott, Sydney E.; Inbar, Yoel; Rozin, Paul (2016). "Evidence for Absolute Moral Opposition to Genetically Modified Food in the United States" (PDF). Perspectives on Psychological Science. 11 (3): 315–24. doi:10.1177/1745691615621275. PMID 27217243.
- "Restrictions on Genetically Modified Organisms". Library of Congress. 9 June 2015. Retrieved 24 February 2016.
- Bashshur, Ramona (February 2013). "FDA and Regulation of GMOs". American Bar Association. Retrieved 24 February 2016.
- Sifferlin, Alexandra (3 October 2015). "Over Half of E.U. Countries Are Opting Out of GMOs". Time.
- Lynch, Diahanna; Vogel, David (5 April 2001). "The Regulation of GMOs in Europe and the United States: A Case-Study of Contemporary European Regulatory Politics". Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved 24 February 2016.
- Parker, Laura. "The GMO Labeling Battle Is Heating Up—Here's Why". National Geographic. Retrieved 19 June 2014.
- The Editors. "Labels for GMO Foods Are a Bad Idea". Scientific American. Retrieved 19 June 2014.
- Bauers, Sandy. "GreenSpace: Pa., N.J. new fronts in food-label fight". Philly.com. Retrieved 19 June 2014.
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- Knowles, David. "Chipotle becomes first U.S. restaurant chain to try and rid menu of GMO foods". New York Daily News. Retrieved 19 June 2014.
- Velasco, Schuyler. "Ben & Jerry's ingredients won't include GMOs, company says". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 19 June 2014.
- "Our Position on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)". Ben & Jerry's. Retrieved 19 June 2014.
- Gasparro, Annie. "General Mills Starts Making Some Cheerios Without GMOs". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 19 June 2014.
- Gillam, Carey. "'GMO Answers' Website Launched By Monsanto, DuPont, More". Huffington Post. Retrieved 19 June 2014.
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- "Council for Biotechnology Information". Council for Biotechnology Information. Retrieved 19 June 2014.
- Hauter, Wenonah. "Biotech Industry's Latest PR Blitz Won't Stop GMO Labeling Momentum". Food & Water Watch. Retrieved 19 June 2014.
- Kimbrell, Andrew. "CFS Statement on New Biotech Industry Website "GMO Answers"". Center for Food Safety. Retrieved 19 June 2014.