Food science expert: Genetically modified crops are overregulated

Posted By News On February 17, 2013 - 7:00pm
Food science expert: Genetically modified crops are overregulated

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — It has been almost 20 years since the first genetically modified foods showed up in produce aisles throughout the United States and the rest of the world, but controversy continues to surround the products and their regulation.

Bruce Chassy, a professor emeritus of food science and human nutrition at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, believes that after thousands of research studies and worldwide planting, "genetically modified foods pose no special risks to consumers or the environment" and are overregulated.

Chassy will elaborate on this conclusion at the 2013 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston on Feb. 17. During his talk, "Regulating the Safety of Foods and Feeds Derived From Genetically Modified Crops," Chassy will share his view that the overregulation of GM crops actually hurts the environment, reduces global health and burdens the consumer.

University of Illinois professor emeritus of the department of food science and nutrition Bruce Chassy will present a talk in which he argues genetically modified foods are safe for consumption and overregulated.

(Photo Credit: L. Brian Stauffer)

Farmers have witnessed the advantages of GM crops firsthand through increases in their yields and profit, and decreases in their labor, energy consumption, pesticide use and greenhouse gas emissions, Chassy said.

Despite these benefits, various regulatory agencies require newly developed GM crops to be put to the test with rigorous safety evaluations that include molecular characterization, toxicological evaluation, allergenicity assessments, compositional analysis and feeding studies. This extensive testing takes five to 10 years and costs tens of millions of dollars, and Chassy argues that this process "wastes resources and diverts attention from real food safety issues."

"With more than half of the world's population now living in countries that have adopted GM crops, it might be appropriate to reduce the regulatory scrutiny of GM crops to a level that is commensurate with science-based risk assessment," Chassy said.

During his talk, Chassy will chronicle the scientific tests used in pre-market safety assessments of GM foods and elaborate on the evidence from thousands of research studies and expansive GM plantings that he says show these crops do not present risks to consumers or the environment. The overregulation of GM foods is a response not to scientific evidence, Chassy said, but to a global campaign that disseminates misinformation and fear about these food sources.

Mr. Chassy, you've got it backwards. Monsanto is the one running a campaign of misinformation. Try reading something besides biotech industry PR. Here's a start—

"The American Academy of Environmental Medicine this year said that genetically modified foods, according to animal studies, are causally linked to accelerated aging, dysfunctional immune regulation, organ damage, gastrointestinal distress, and immune system damage.

A study came out by the Union of Concerned Scientists confirming what we all know, that genetically modified crops, on average, reduce yield. A USDA report from 2006 showed that farmers don't actually increase income from GMOs, but many actually lose income. And for the last several years, the United States has been forced to spend $3-$5 billion per year to prop up the prices of the GM crops no one wants."
—Jeffrey Smith, addressing US Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack, 2009, Community Food Security Coalition conference, Des Moines, Iowa.

61 nations require labeling and 23 have banned GMOs completely.
The US should have done likewise, long ago but our regulatory agencies are in bed with the biotechs via the revolving door.

Our regulatory agencies work with the biotech and pharma industries via the ever revolving door. Industry gets to head up the department that makes the rules to protect corporate and government profits. The US then pushes these markets around the world, often down the barrel of a gun.

There are no human safety studies yet, because they were deemed unnecessary by our government. Combining all available data however, it's obvious that GMOs are slowly killing us and our planet.

Why genetically engineered food is dangerous: New report by genetic engineers

Genetic Roulette

19 Studies Link GMOs to Organ Disruption —

GMOs Failing Worldwide

Can biotechnology help fight world hunger?

Monsanto's herbicide causing Sudden Death Syndrome in plants

Doctors Warn - Avoid Genetically Modified Food

Austrian Government Study Confirms Genetically Modified (GM) Crops Threaten Human Fertility and Health

GMOs failing across America - Farmer to Farmer film reveals disastrous failure

Health108 laid out some great points above but just wanted to add this one to their list of things this article ran away from in just about all it said! But Agrobacterium tumefaciens used to create GM plants is also able to change human cells they have found, which opens up the horizontal gene transfer doorway.

Genetic transformation of HeLa cells by Agrobacterium.

You missed the point he is making. Health108 revealed their colors pretty quickly by starting with what is essentially an ad hominem attack on GMOs by necessarily equating them with Monsanto's agricultural death grip. The fact that every link they provided was from a substantively interested group opposed to GMOs further exacerbates this point that Health108 is not interested in any informed science on the issue. Most of the articles do not explicitly point toward the genetic modification causing the problem, but rather say that this GMO is bad and so is that one. The fact that it is a GMO is then used to imply that genetic modification is the only way this effect could be observed. This is GOD AWFUL pseudoscience. I don't disagree that our regulatory agencies are in bed with those whom they regulate, but that does not mean that all GMOs are bad.

Jonathan provides a good academic article but makes a claim that is not presented by the authors and extends the argument to horizontal gene transfer. A basic understanding of horizontal gene transfer and how GMOs undermines the argument he is making. First, in the paper linked, the genes inserted through the use of a plasmid vector to transfer a specific gene. They are using an active process to insert a gene. The paper is essentially saying "Look, in the lab we are able to insert this gene through this controlled process" not "when these genes are placed next to each other they randomly combine to create destructive human DNA." The probability of horizontal gene transfer of the destructive genes in question without an active laboratory technique is exceedingly unlikely - hence the relevance of this study.

It should be clear that the use of a specific gene from one species to create a GMO is fundamentally a controlled process where some strand of DNA from one species is inserted into a specific location on another species because of hypothesized benefits. These genes are almost certainly expressed in the GMO differently than the species from which the gene is taken considering the coding is for only a portion of a protein already present. This is only of great value if the inserted gene is highly conserved - that is genes that are least likely to experience horizontal gene transfer. This fact - that genetic modification intentionally is done on the most conserved strands of DNA - makes me leery of the constant "more studies are needed" idea. I don't see the warrant anymore than I do with saying more research is needed on whether or not organic foods are healthy.

The notion that an esteemed scientist who has spent his academic career is misinformed about these issues and you are in the know because you read interest-group websites is like arguing that a creationist who reads the bible knows more than an evolutionary biologist regarding how man came to walk the earth.

I don't necessarily agree with Prof. Chassy's conclusion here - I think all of agriculture needs to be better regulated - but the extra concern about GMOs is largely unwarranted.

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