Scientific consensus on GM crops safety ‘overwhelming’

The Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC) has refuted claims from an anti-GM campaign group that there is “no scientific consensus” on the safety of genetically modified foods.

More than 90 scientists, academics and physicians added their names to a statement published this week which challenges claims from the UK government and biotech companies that GM foods are safe.

The European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER) released the statement in the week after the World Food Prize was awarded to employees of GM seed giants Monsanto and Syngenta.

ABC chair Julian Little said the statement had been put together by an anti-GM group and he insisted that contrary to the claims, there was an “overwhelming weight of evidence” that points to the safety of GM crops.

Dr Little said: “Biotech crops are among the most extensively tested foods in the history of food safety.

“In 2010, the European Commission concluded on the basis of 130 research projects involving 500 independent groups over 25 years that ‘there is, as of today, no scientific evidence associating GMOs with higher risks for the environment or for food and feed safety than conventional plants and organisms’.

“This year, the representative body of the national science academies of the EU Member states agreed, saying that ‘there is no validated evidence that GM crops have greater adverse impact on health and the environment’ than any other crops produced using plant breeding techniques.”

Dr Little added that an estimated three trillion meals containing GM ingredients have been eaten around the world over the past 13 years “without a single substantiated case of ill-health”.

“The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that: ‘No effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved’.”

Dr Little said the WHO’s statement was backed up by government regulators around the world, including the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in the UK.

The Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC) of Australia said the ENSSER’s statement “flies in the face of a consenus of an overwhelming majority of scientists”.

“Every legitimate scientific organisation that has examined the evidence has arrived at the conclusion that GM crops and the foods they produce pose no risk to human health or the environment beyond those posed by their conventional counterparts,” added ABC Australia.

Meanwhile, EU farming groups, including the NFU, NFU Cymru, NFU Scotland and the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU), have added their name to a different letter, which voices “deep concern” about the effects of GM policies and regulations in the EU.

In an open letter sent to the European Commission on behalf of the French Association for Plant Biotechnology (AFBV), they called for better for access to the best crops, including GM varieties, so that agriculture in Europe can be more sustainable and less reliant on imported products.

The letter states that the lack of options for GM technology available to farmers in Europe can equate to significant loss of income and a missed opportunity.

Helen Ferrier, NFU chief science and regulatory affairs adviser, said: “The heads of EU institutions have a great deal of power to sort out this mess and ensure the EU doesn’t become uncompetitive in both agricultural production and scientific research.

“This letter demonstrates the strength of feeling in the agriculture sector across Europe. Swift action must be taken.”

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