Questioning The Current Research & Study On GMOs: Points For, & Against

Some groups support the current scientific consensus on GM crops and food, whilst others at least have critiques of it, and ask question of it.

What this lead us to do is put together a basic guide reviewing some of the points for, and also against the current research and study on GMOs.

 

*Note – this guide looks specifically at the research and study part of GMO crops and foods.

 

Summary – Questioning The Current Research & Study On GMOs

Points Questioning The Current Research & Study On GMOs

Research Costs, & Securing Funding, Might Be Significant Barriers For Independent Researchers

There Might Be A Conflict Of Interest When GMO/Biotech Companies & Herbicide Companies Fund Studies & Tests

The Process Of Studying Or Researching GMO Seeds Might Be Restrictive & Complex For Independent Researchers

Scientists/Researchers That Find Negative Results For The Use Of GMOs Might Face Negative Consequences & Backlash

Studies Exist That Are Critical Of The Use Of GMOs

There Might Be A Lack Of Studies On The Long Term Effects Of GMOs, & The ‘Long Term’ Studies That Are Available Might Be Misleading

There’s An Environmental Sciences Europe Joint Statement – ‘No Scientific Consensus On GMO Safety’

 

Points Supporting The Current Research & Study On GMOs

There’s Currently A Scientific Consensus That Is Favorable For The Safety Of GM Crops & Foods

Studies Showing Negative Or Critical Results For GMOs Might Be Minimal & ‘Cherry Picked’

Requiring Results From Long Term Studies On GMOs Might Be Unrealistic

The Research Into GMOs Might Not Be As Restrictive As Some Claim

The Lack Of Support For GMO Products In Some Countries Might Be Based On Reasons Outside Of Science 

 

Firstly, What Are GM Crops & Foods?

In this guide, we outline what GM crops and foods are, their potential uses, their engineered traits, give examples of them, and more.

 

What Is The Current Scientific Consensus On GM Crops & Foods?

We’ve outlined what the scientific consensus of foods from GMO crops is in this guide.

But, as a paraphrased summary – ‘… GM crops poses no greater risk to human health than conventional food, but … each GM food needs to be tested on a case-by-case basis before introduction’ (wikipedia.org)

 

Points Questioning The Current Research & Studies On GMOs

Some of the points to challenge or question the current research and studies on GMOs might include:

 

Research Costs, & Securing Funding, Might Be Significant Barriers For Independent Researchers

These costs include studies, research and tests, and can be significant.

Funding can also be difficult to secure from both private and public sources.

These may be some reasons why we don’t see as much independent research.

 

From gmoanswers.com:

[the deregulation process for biotech products and GMO seeds] can cost millions of dollars … [which limits the money for countless studies] 

[This might be] One reason that perhaps more independent testing [isn’t done]

That’s why we consider scientific studies that have been conducted by the biotech companies [already]

 

There Might Be A Conflict Of Interest When GMO/Biotech Companies & Herbicide Companies Fund Studies & Tests

Companies that stand to profit or benefit from the use of (or deregulation of) GM crops and foods, may also fund research, studies and tests.

Some argue that there may be a conflict of interest here to selectively fund certain research, and only release research, studies and tests that are favorable for GM crops and foods.

 

We list some of the main seed and chemical companies involved with GMO foods and crops in this guide.

 

A good portion of the research on GM foods is funded by the companies developing these products (vox.com)

 

One example of a website that provides information on GMOs is GMOAnswers.com.

On their about page, you can find who funds them and who the experts are that provide information.

Some of the relevant information we’ve paraphrased or summarised is:

GMO Answers [at the time of writing this article] was funded by the members of The Council for Biotechnology Information, which includes BASF, Bayer, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont, Monsanto Company and Syngenta.

The independent experts who answer consumer questions are not paid by GMO Answers to answer questions.

Experts donate their time to answer questions in their area of expertise for the website.

They do so because they are passionate about helping the public better understand GMOs and how our food is grown.

On occasion, independent experts participate in speaking or media opportunities on behalf of GMO Answers.

In these instances, GMO Answers will reimburse for the travel expenses incurred by the expert.

 

The Process Of Studying Or Researching GMO Seeds Might Be Restrictive & Complex For Independent Researchers

For example, some researchers might say that GMO seeds can be difficult to obtain, that there can be contracts to sign which stipulate how research can be done, results that can be edited out of the final published report, and some reports may not be published at all,

Obviously, if this is true – the comprehensiveness and accuracy of the information that has been released from GM research and testing, and may be released in the future, might be limited.

 

In-depth food safety studies on GM crops and foods carried out by scientists independent of the GMO industry are rare.

They are hampered by the difficulty of accessing GM seeds and the non-GM parent varieties from the developer companies.

Claims that the climate for independent researchers has improved in recent years remain unproven.

– earthopensource.org

 

[With research] There’s also the question of research access.

Companies like Monsanto typically license out their products to universities for study.

But in the past, some researchers have complained that they can’t get access, or that permission gets pulled if they conduct a study the company doesn’t like.

In 2009, however, many companies responded by relaxing their restrictions on sharing seeds for research, although it’s still unclear if that resolved all the outstanding issues. 

– vox.com

 

A few claims made are that user agreements with half of today’s leading GMO seed producers prohibit the use of independent research on the final product.

This helps to protect the royalties that the companies earn when farmers are able to harvest a yield through the use of their seeds.

Since the seeds are considered company property, even the unintended growing of a GMO crop can result in the need to pay a royalty

– vittana.org

 

Research into GM seeds is tightly controlled by the agritech companies that have given themselves the power to quash the work of independent researchers.

Research on genetically modified seeds is still done by independent scientists, but only studies that the seed companies have approved are published in peer-reviewed journals

– choice.com.au

 

Scientists/Researchers That Find Negative Results For The Use Of GMOs Might Face Negative Consequences & Backlash

From earthopensource.org:

Those scientists who have managed to carry out such research and have found risks from the genetically modified organism (GMO) tested have suffered persecution [and] … [some] have paid with their careers and funding

 

Studies Exist That Are Critical Of The Use Of GMOs

According to earthopensource.org, names of researchers or publishers that are examples of this are:

Including but not limited to studies by Gilles-Eric Séralini, Manuela Malatesta, Emma Rosi-Marshall, Arpad Pusztai, and Ignacio Chapela

 

There Might Be A Lack Of Studies On The Long Term Effects Of GMOs, & The ‘Long Term’ Studies That Are Available Might Be Misleading

Even if there are testing and study results for the short term effects of GMOs, there are those that point out that there are little to no results for long term studies.

Some groups also point out that the available long term studies can be misleading, and that they have double standards.

 

Some GMO proponents and scientists say that many long-term animal feeding studies have concluded GM foods are safe.

But this claim [is argued by some as not being] accurate.

Few long-term and in-depth studies have been carried out and several studies that have been carried out have found toxic effects.

A review by Snell and colleagues purporting to present long-term studies showing long-term safety is misleading, with double standards being used to dismiss findings of harm while findings of safety are accepted at face value.

– earthopensource.org

 

There’s An Environmental Sciences Europe Joint Statement – ‘No Scientific Consensus On GMO Safety’

One of the sources that challenges the consensus on GM foods and crops is the joint statement issued by Environmental Sciences Europe.

Paraphrased and summarised notes from that Statement include:

Over 300 independent scientific researchers and scholars (scientists, physicians, social scientists, academics, and specialists in legal aspects and risk assessment of GM crops and foods) have challenged the claim of a consensus on the safety of GMO crops and foods – they are challenging the conclusiveness of the claims

They aren’t asserting that GMOs are unsafe or safe – they are saying there is a scarcity of contradictory scientific evidence published, and the consensus claims are not supported by an objective analysis or refereed literature

Some of the other feedback they give on the consensus claim is:

– It’s just a claim, and not a legitimate consensus

– It’s an artificial construct because of various reasons like contradictory evidence in refereed literature, different research methods being used, inadequacy of available procedures, and differences in the analysis and interpretation of data

– The policy makers in over 160 countries also have to authorize GMOs on a case by case basis, based on national criteria for safe, and the actions of each country has been different in this process

– There’s a lack of funding for study that is independent of proprietary interests

– There’s property rights issues, denial of access to research material for researchers unwilling to sign contractual agreement with developers due to what they deem unacceptable control over publication to the proprietary interests

– There are competing interests when promoting or challenging the use of GM crops and foods – political, corporate, public/individual, and so on. There’s also objectives like environmental and health vs economic growth and profit to be considered

 

In the conclusion from the discussion available at enveurope.springeropen.com, part of what is stated is:

Scientific research outcomes in GM crop safety in nuanced, complex and sometimes contradictory or inconclusive.

It can be impacted by researcher choice, assumptions, and funding sources.

In general, it might raise more questions than it answers

The safety of GM crops and foods involve socioeconomic consideration beyond the scope of narrow scientific debate and the unresolved biosafety research agendas – these decisions need to involve broader society

There should be long term considerations made for humans, animals and the environment

Scientific evidence should be obtained in ‘a manner that is honest, ethical, rigorous, independent, transparent, and sufficiently diversified to compensate for bias’

Decisions on the future of our food and agriculture should not be based on misleading and misrepresentative claims by an internal circle of like minded stakeholders that a ‘scientific consensus’ exists on GMO safety

 

Note – this is a European based statement from Environmental Sciences Europe.

In general, Europe’s stance on GMOs has been far more restrictive than a country like the US for example, and this is somewhat reflected in how many GM crops each region grows.

 

Points Supporting The Current Research & Studies On GMOs

Some of the points to support the current research and studies on GMOs might include:

 

There’s Currently A Scientific Consensus That Is Favorable For The Safety Of GM Crops & Foods

There’s many sources that provide information on the current scientific consensus that GMOs are either safe, or present no more risk than conventional crops and food

Some of those sources are:

GMO 20 Year Safety Endorsement (geneticliteracyproject.org)

Genetically Modified Organism (wikipedia.org)

GMOs 101 (msutoday.msu.edu)

The Debate About GMO Safety Is Over, Thanks To A New Trillion-Meal Study (forbes.com) 

Is It Safe To Eat GM Crops? (royalsociety.org)

GMO Facts (livescience.com) 

 

Studies Showing Negative Or Critical Results For GMOs Might Be Minimal & ‘Cherry Picked’

A common defence of GMOs is that there are 1000’s of studies that support the safety of GMOs, and only a handful or studies that show negative effects.

Some groups say that those who don’t support the use of GMOs essentially build arguments around the small number of studies that show negative results.

They may essentially ‘cherry pick’ from a small minority of studies to prove a point.

 

[there are a] handful of papers that suggest negative findings (but that have been heavily criticized by many other scientists in the field) and then there are hundreds of studies from all around the world that do not support concerns about the safety of GM food.

If the popular media and activist groups cite safety concerns as an argument to stop GMOs, they do so based on a very small selection of carefully cherry-picked (and otherwise disputed) papers out of a trove of other papers that contradict their position. (If they use evidence at all.)

– researchgate.net

 

Requiring Results From Long Term Studies On GMOs Might Be Unrealistic

Geneticliteracyproject.org indicates that there are several reasons there are no long term studies on GMOs. These might range from:

… difficulty, logistics, variables, and that if people want tests on GMOs, why don’t they want them on other products that have been modified like seedless watermelons and sweet potatoes?

 

You can read more about those reasons arguing against long term GMO studies here  

 

The Research Into GMOs Might Not Be As Restrictive As Some Claim

Some say there were never prohibitions from biotech companies on independent research, and that there are limited restrictions on what researchers are allowed to do.

Biotech companies for example might argue that valid reasons for their research requirements exists – such as protection against pirating of products and technology, and wanting agreement on standards of research

 

The biotech industry has never prohibited scientists from doing independent studies on their seeds

Prior to 2009, biotech companies wanted the scientists to agree to a couple standards to protect their product and technology.

[As a result of talks in 2009] principles made explicit an industry commitment to allow independent scientists to do any sort of research they wanted with commercially available seeds, as long as they weren’t trying to pirate the technology, and as long as they don’t sell or release the seeds into the wild afterward

– gmoanswers.com

 

Those principles and objectives are viewable, as is Monsanto’s policy, in the amseed.org, and monsanto.com resources listed in the sources list

 

The Lack Of Support For GMO Products In Some Countries Might Be Based On Reasons Outside Of Science 

For example, some say the reasons for banning or restricting the growth of GM crops in some countries are political, economic, or related to something else outside of what the science says.

 

We give examples of these reasons and the countries in question in this guide

 

Sources

1. https://gmoanswers.com/myth-biotech-companies-block-independent-research 

2. https://gmoanswers.com/who-we-are

3. https://vittana.org/13-vital-pros-and-cons-of-gmos

4. https://www.gmwatch.org/en/10-reasons-why-we-dont-need-gm-foods

5. https://www.vox.com/2014/11/3/18092762/who-conducts-research-on-gmos

6. http://earthopensource.org/gmomythsandtruths/sample-page/2-science-regulation/2-2-myth-independent-studies-confirm-gm-foods-crops-safe/

7. http://earthopensource.org/gmomythsandtruths/sample-page/3-health-hazards-gm-foods/3-3-myth-many-long-term-studies-show-gm-safe/

8. https://gmo.geneticliteracyproject.org/FAQ/where-are-gmos-grown-and-banned/

9. https://theconversation.com/why-genetically-modified-crops-have-been-slow-to-take-hold-in-africa-44195

10. https://geneticliteracyproject.org/2017/06/19/gmo-20-year-safety-endorsement-280-science-institutions-more-3000-studies/ 

11. https://msutoday.msu.edu/feature/2018/gmos-101/ 

12. https://www.forbes.com/sites/jonentine/2014/09/17/the-debate-about-gmo-safety-is-over-thanks-to-a-new-trillion-meal-study/ 

13. https://royalsociety.org/topics-policy/projects/gm-plants/is-it-safe-to-eat-gm-crops/ 

14. https://www.livescience.com/40895-gmo-facts.html 

15. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetically_modified_organism 

16. https://www.researchgate.net/post/GMO_crops_Is_there_any_peer_reviewed_scientific_evidence_that_questions_their_safety 

17. https://geneticliteracyproject.org/2016/01/13/no-long-term-gmo-studies-humans/ 

18. Hilbeck et al. Environmental Sciences Europe (2015) 27:4. Available at https://enveurope.springeropen.com/track/pdf/10.1186/s12302-014-0034-1

19. https://www.choice.com.au/food-and-drink/food-warnings-and-safety/food-safety/articles/are-you-eating-gm-food#2%20what%20GM%20foods%20are%20grown%20in%20australia?

20. http://www.amseed.org/pdfs/issues/biotech/research-commercially-available-seed-products.pdf

21. https://monsanto.com/company/media/statements/academic-research-agreements/

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