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Genetically Engineered Crops Safe to Grow and Eat, says NAS Report

EL BATAN, MEXICO (CIMMYT): According to a study released by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) earlier this month, Genetically Engineered (GE) crops are as safe to eat as conventionally bred crops and have benefited the environment and ecosystem diversity by reducing pesticide use. The report also states that there is “no conclusive evidence of cause-and- effect relationships between GE crops and environmental problems.”

The study is conducted by a committee of 20 scientists chosen by the NAS to represent diverse disciplines relevant to the topic, the study brought together ample and broad-ranging evidence from the last 20 years, the period since the first commercial release of GE crops, regarding their impacts on yields, the abundance and diversity of insects, insecticide and herbicide use, the development of resistance to agrochemicals in weeds and pests, human and animal health and various other aspects of concern to society.

This committee collectively read 900 studies and publications, listened to 80 speakers at public meetings and webinars and reviewed over 700 comments and documents submitted by the public on GE crops past, present and future.

director of the Genetic Resources Program at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and member of the committee authoring, Kevin Pixley said, “Consumers and stakeholders have made diverse claims about GE crops, ranging from ‘they cause cancer’ to ‘we cannot feed the world without them.’”

Regarding health concerns, the committee found no conclusive evidence that GE crops have contributed to obesity, diabetes, kidney disease, autism, celiac disease or food allergies.

The committee raised a red flag regarding weed and insect species developing resistance to commonly used herbicides and pesticides where farmers had grown GE crops without following proper practices to avoid this development.

Virtually no GE crops have been grown in most of Europe and calls for stricter labelling on GE products have also been made in countries including the United States and Canada.

The report states that regulators should perform safety testing on individual products, based on their novelty and potential for adverse health or environmental effects.