After nearly two years of study, the National Academies of Sciences released a report May 17 showing that genetically engineered, or transgenic, crops have produced “no adverse health effects” to date in the human population.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had asked the National Academies to convene a committee of scientific experts to outline science-based approaches for assessing or predicting the unintended health effects of genetically engineered foods.
The panel of 20 international scientists reviewed more than 1,000 published research papers on commercial crops, such as corn, soybeans and corn. In addition, they considered input from 80 different meetings and more than 700 submitted public comments.
Although the scientists acknowledged several nontransgenic methods are used in plant breeding, they focused their attention on the rDNA methods that allow a gene from one species to be inserted into another.
The 236-page report contains a set of recommendations and a framework to identify appropriate scientific questions and methods for determining unintended changes.
“Although the array of analytical and epidemiological techniques available has increased, there remain sizable gaps in our ability to identify compositional changes that result from genetic modification of organisms intended for food; to determine the biological relevance of such changes to human health; and to devise appropriate scientific methods to predict and assess unintended adverse effects on human health,” the scientists wrote.”The committee has identified and recommended pre- and postmarket approaches to guide assessment of unintended compositional changes that could result from genetic modification of foods and research avenues to fill the knowledge gaps.”
Among their recommendations were developing improved methods for predicting, identifying and assessing unintended health effects from GMO. Those same techniques can be applied to monitoring of foods also produced by more traditional breeding methods.
They also recommended that changes resulting from genetic modification continue to undergo appropriate safety assessments before commercialization. The review should be based on the presence of novel compounds or substantial changes to the organism, such as nutrients above the normal range, taking into account the organism modified and the introduced trait.
Read the full report on the National Academies Press website.