Are GMO’s safe? We’re asking one question, getting a different answer

3 small plastic cups with small plants growing in each one
From Flickr Creative Commons: Plants are coming along by Tim Patterson

This is a favorite trick of not-so-honest representatives in the public relations industry (my day job, but I’m the honest kind); you ask one question, they answer with something that doesn’t really address what you are really asking.

So I watch with varying levels of frustration the debate on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s). The public is asking, “Are they safe?” and the response is, “They are safe for human consumption.

See what they did there? They defined what “safe” meant for us. How nice of them. But is that what we are asking? It’s not what I’m asking.

When I ask, “Are they safe?” I’m asking:

  • Are they safe for human consumption?
  • Are they safe for the environment?
  • Are there going to be long-term ecological consequences from GMO’s?
  • Are they safe for the animals living around them?

My question is much broader, they are only responding to part of it.

Two examples:

Why Do Many Reasonable People Doubt Science, National Geographic

For many of us this new world is wondrous, comfortable, and rich in rewards—but also more complicated and sometimes unnerving. We now face risks we can’t easily analyze.

We’re asked to accept, for example, that it’s safe to eat food containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) because, the experts point out, there’s no evidence that it isn’t and no reason to believe that altering genes precisely in a lab is more dangerous than altering them wholesale through traditional breeding. But to some people the very idea of transferring genes between species conjures up mad scientists running amok—and so, two centuries after Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, they talk about Frankenfood.

The Debate About GMO Safety is Over, Thanks to a Trillion-Meal Study, Forbes

The authors also found no evidence to suggest any health affect on humans who eat those animals. No study has revealed any differences in the nutritional profile of animal products derived from GE-fed animals.

In other words, the debate over the risks associated with GMO food is effectively over. As Novella writes:

We now have a large set of data, both experimental and observational, showing that genetically modified feed is safe and nutritionally equivalent to non-GMO feed. There does not appear to be any health risk to the animals, and it is even less likely that there could be any health effect on humans who eat those animals.

In order to maintain the position that GMOs are not adequately tested, or that they are harmful or risky, you have to either highly selectively cherry pick a few outliers of low scientific quality, or you have to simply deny the science.


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