If you read around a range of sources on the internet, what you will probably find is that most sources say there is a scientific consensus (based on the studies and research) on the safety of GMOs.
This consensus is that GMOs are safe, or that they present no more risk in safety than conventional crops and foods.
But, some sources question certain base factors that make up this consensus.
We wanted to dig a bit deeper to provide some arguments on both side of that debate, to question whether current studies and research can be relied upon to be trustworthy or not.
Questions About The Research & Studies Done On GMOs
- The Cost Of GMO Research & Studies Are Supposedly High, & Funding Can Be An Issue For Independent Research
Cost of independent studies, research and tests can be high. This is the reason we may not see as many as we would like.
Independent researchers have to rely on either public funding, or a private funder – both of which can be a big hurdle
It can cost millions of dollars to get through the “deregulation” process [for biotech products and GMOs]
One reason that perhaps more independent testing wasn’t [or isn’t] done: [is] the cost [or research, testing and studies]
So, really, public scientists just don’t have the cash to conduct countless studies on the same topic.
That’s why we consider scientific studies that have been conducted by the biotech companies when the company is attempting to deregulate a new biotech seed.
- GMO/Biotech Companies & Herbicide Companies Might Be Funding Certain Studies & Information On GMOs Available To The General Public
Related to the previous point about cost, GMO and Biotech companies (some of the same companies who provide certain herbicides as well) may be the main source of private funding for some GMO studies and research
People argue that studies funded privately by Biotech (& Herbicide) companies have a conflict of interest to make sure the results, or at least the results that are released publicly, favor the use of GMOs when considering safety, effects etc.
There are 5 other companies that, along with Monsanto, control nearly all of the GMO seed market. This include Sungenta, Dow Agrosciences, Bayer, BASF, and DuPont. This means a majority of corn and soybean products are not only profiting the farmer, but they are profiting companies as well.
[In 2008 Monsanto made] nearly as much on herbicide as it [did] on corn seeds. (Overall, the company expects to make $3.8 billion on seeds in ’08).
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:
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 Credibility Of Existing Studies Is Questioned, & The Process To Get New Studies Done Is Restrictive
If you speak to, or read what some independent scientists and researchers have to say about the process of studying or researching GMO seeds and products – some say it can be a very restrictive, complex process
Some say that GMO seeds can be difficult to obtain, that there can be contracts to sign which stipulate how you can research, results can be edited out of the final published report, and some reports may not be published at all
Obviously, if some or all of this is true – this limits how much accurate research and study information can, or has been released to the public
This does throw some questions into the credibility of existing studies too.
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.
A good portion of the research on GM foods is funded by the companies developing these products.
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.
- Some Say That Scientists Or Researchers That Find Negative Results For The Use Of GMOs Face Consequences & Backlash
Those scientists who have managed to carry out such research and have found risks from the genetically modified organism (GMO) tested have suffered persecution. Some have paid with their careers and funding.
- There Has Been Studies That Have Been Critical Of The Use Of GMOs
Including but not limited to studies by Gilles-Eric Séralini, Manuela Malatesta, Emma Rosi-Marshall, Arpad Pusztai, and Ignacio Chapela
- There’s A Lack Of Studies On The Long Term Effects Of GMOs, & That The ‘Long Term’ Studies That Are Available Are Misleading
Even if the short term effects of GMOs have been studied, there are concerns that the long term effects have not sufficiently been tested or studied
It’s also argued that the long term studies that are available are 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.
Support Of The Research & Studies Done On GMOs
- There’s A Scientific Consensus That GMO Foods & Crops Are As Safe As Conventional Crops & Foods – This Is Based On 1000’s Of Studies
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:
- Supporters Of GMOs Say That Studies Showing Negative Or Critical Results For GMOs Are 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.
They say that people who don’t support the use of GMOs essentially build arguments around the small number of studies that show negative results.
They essentially ‘cherry pick’ from a small minority study 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.)
- Supporters Of GMOs Say That Long Term Studies On GMOs Are Unrealistic
There are several reasons there are no long term studies on GMOs ranging 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 studies here – https://geneticliteracyproject.org/2016/01/13/no-long-term-gmo-studies-humans/
- Supporters Of GMOs Say That Research Into GMOs Is Not 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
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
[Those principles and objectives are viewable, as is Monsanto’s policy – http://www.amseed.org/pdfs/issues/biotech/research-commercially-available-seed-products.pdf, and https://monsanto.com/company/media/statements/academic-research-agreements/]
- Supporters Of GMOs Say That Reasons For Not Supporting GMO Research Or Studies Are Based On Reasons Outside Of Science
These reasons can be political, economic, personal or others.
When nations ban the importation or cultivation of GMO products, such moves are generally driven not by science, as the independent science organizations in every major country have come out with public statements that GM products are safe. Other factors are trade protectionism, pressure from activists, public uneasiness or a desire to protect a country’s image—such as the French belief that genetic crops could “contaminate” the country’s reputation as a world food capital. As is often the case with GMOs, the situation in the European Union suggests how divisive and political this issue has become.
The EU has witnessed numerous skirmishes between scientists and politically-based opposition. Scottish leaders, for example, admitted that their decision to opt out of GMO cultivation was based on marketing concerns, rather than science. And when the European Commission’s science adviser, Anne Glover, spoke in favor of the science of genetic engineering, she found herself out of a job following intense lobbying by opposition groups. Bans almost always run counter to the advice of scientists and agricultural experts in the nations where they are implemented.
The main reasons other countries haven’t followed suit [in planting some types of GM crops] are political and economic.
The negative attitude to GM crops found in Europe, where they import GM crops such as soybeans for animal feed but do not allow their own farmers to plant it, has had a strong influence on African politicians.
The reluctance of so many African countries to GMOs is also attributed to fears about the impact it would have on trade with other countries, particularly Europe where a number of countries have banned GM imports.