This toxin is currently used as a conventional insecticide in agriculture and is safe for human consumption,” (WHO 2010). This begs the question: if the “toxin” is safe, then why is it called a toxin? With similar grim irony, biotechnology companies are inserting viruses and bacteria into plants too. Theoretically, these alterations to the genetic structure of the plant are “safe,” but there have been no longitudinal studies showing that introducing toxins, bacteria, and viruses into the food chain deliberately will have net positive effects. As of now, “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,” (WHO 2010). The effects on human DNA have yet to be seen. Clearly the impetus to alter plant genes is a financial one. Increasing crop yields is code for improving profits.
In a thorough article on genetically modified crops, the Green Facts organization (2005) summarizes data from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). According to the report, some fifty “authoritative independent scientific assessments from around the world” have deemed genetically modified foods as safe to eat, using “appropriate” research methodologies. The author does not define what parameters are used to qualify the research as either “independent” or as “appropriate,” and the consumer is supposed to take the FAOs word for it.
The recurring argument in pro-GMO literature is that “to date no adverse effects have been observed,” (Green Facts 2005). Of course, this statement has been issued only a generation after genetically modified foods have been consumed by human beings, so it is truly impossible to know what effects might result from continued ingestion and infiltration of the food chain.
In fact, the authors admit that “the possibility of long-term effects from genetically modified plants cannot be excluded and must be examined on a case-by-case basis,” (Green Facts 2005).
Green Facts (2005) claims some direct benefits from genetically modified foods: “Scientists generally agree that genetic engineering can offer some health benefits to consumers. Direct benefits can come from improving the nutritional quality of food and from reducing the presence of toxic compounds and allergens in certain foods.” These beliefs are pure speculation, and the author even admits so much noting that “scientists believe” these facts to be true rather than stating, “scientists have tested these hypotheses and proven then to be true.”
The so-called indirect benefits of consuming GMOs is also alluded to, such as “diminished pesticide use, less insect or disease damage to plants, increased availability of affordable food, and the removal of toxic compounds from soil,” (Green FActs 2005). Once again, such claims are unproven and misleading. The author also points out the potentially adverse environmental repercussions of introducing genetically modified organisms into crop production and hence, the food chain: “In the field, no significant adverse effects on non-target wildlife nor long-term effects of higher Bt concentrations in soil have so far been observed.” Again, long-term effects on ecosystems have yet to be measured. Animal feeds already contain genetically modified organisms, notes the author, also without any longitudinal research to indicate safety.
Green Facts (2005). Scientific Facts on Genetically Modified Crops. Retrieved online: http://www.greenfacts.org/en/gmo/2-genetically-modified-crops/index.htm#0
WebMD (n.d.). Are Biotech Foods Safe to Eat? Retrieved online: http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/are-biotech-foods-safe-to-eat
World Health Organization (WHO 2010). 20 questions on genetically modified (GM) foods. Retrieved online: http://www.who.int/foodsafety/publications/biotech/20questions/en/.