In Brief
A comprehensive new analysis has found that genetically engineered crops appear to be safe to eat and do not harm the environment. The report noted that the crops do not increase the risk of disease, but may not have actually increased crop yields.

No Threat

To date, scientists and the general public seem to have divided opinions on GMOs; however, a new comprehensive analysis by the advisory group to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine may bring people a little closer together. This group has found that genetically engineered crops appear to be safe to eat and do not harm the environment.

The report, written by 20 scientists, is the latest analysis on genetic modification by the community. Ultimately, the report was based on more than 1,000 studies, testimonies from 80 witnesses in a series of public meetings and webinars, and 700 comments submitted by the public. 

The report was focused on genetically engineered crops that are produced in bulk in the US. These include corn and cotton containing bacterial genes that make the crops resistant to certain insects, as well as soybeans, corn, and cotton that are resistant to herbicides, particularly glyphosate.

Reports from the group have previously concluded that genetic engineering has provided environmental and economic benefits to American farmers.

Findings

The report tried to address the main issues thrown at GM crops. Chief among these issues is the health risk posed by genetic modification. The report says that no such health risks have been found to exist, based on chemical analyses of the foods and on animal feeding studies. However, it notes that many animal studies are too small to provide firm conclusions but that, notably, there is still no evidence of harm to health.

Another issue that people take with GM crops is the supposed susceptibility to disease in people who eat GM crops. The report found no evidence that the crops had contributed to an increase in the incidence of cancer, obesity, diabetes, kidney disease, autism, celiac disease, or food allergies.

Finally, the report made recommendations on how regulation of these crops should be done moving forward. The document says the regulatory systems should be tiered, with more radical modifications receiving greater scrutiny. Other new products, regardless of how they are made, might need virtually no scrutiny depending on the level of modification. To this end, they note that technologies that can help distinguish the differences, like DNA sequencers, can be used to more closely analyze the molecular composition of food products and determine the level of scrutiny required.