Contrary to frequent claims that there is no evidence of dangers to health from GM foods and crops, peer-reviewed studies have found harmful effects on the health of laboratory and livestock animals fed GMOs. Effects include toxic and allergenic effects and altered nutritional value.
Most animal feeding studies on GMOs have only been medium-term in length (30–90 days). While GM proponents claim that the observed harmful effects on health are not “biologically relevant” or “adverse”, such claims are scientifically unjustifiable; these terms have not even been properly defined.
What is needed are long-term and multi-generational studies on GMOs to see if the changes found in medium-term studies, which are suggestive of harmful health effects, will develop into serious disease, premature death, or reproductive or developmental effects. Today, such studies are not required by regulators anywhere in the world.
Moreover, the system for assessing the allergenic potential of GM foods in place in the EU today – although it is probably the most rigorous of any assessment system anywhere in the world – is inadequate and unlikely to identify new allergens.
While GM proponents claim that GM can provide nutritionally enhanced (biofortified) foods, no such GM foods are available on the market.
The most widely publicised example of a GM nutritionally enhanced food, Golden Rice, has used up millions of dollars’ worth of research and development money. Yet it has not undergone proper toxicological testing and, after more than a decade, is still not ready for the market. In contrast, tried, tested, and inexpensive means of preventing and curing vitamin A deficiency are successful when applied but are under-utilised due to underfunding.
Aspirational claims of nutritionally enhanced GM crops are a dangerous distraction from the real causes of hunger, which are poverty and a lack of access to land on which to grow food. But if society decides that nutritionally enhanced foods are an important route to food security, it need not wait for expensive GM “solutions”. Conventional plant breeding has already successfully and safely produced many such biofortified foods.