Science panel affirms safety of biotech foods

Published June 1, 2000

There is no “evidence suggesting that foods on the market today are unsafe to eat as a result of genetic modification,” concluded a report released by the National Academy of Sciences on April 5, 2000.

Professor Perry Adkisson, chancellor emeritus of Texas A&M University and chair of the National Academy of Sciences panel, added, “we found no strict distinction between the health and environmental risks posed by plants modified through modern genetic engineering techniques and those modified by conventional breeding practices. . . . Just because a plant is transgenic, doesn’t make it dangerous.”

In addition, the 300-page report urged the three federal agencies responsible for regulating genetically modified plants–the Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drug Administration, and Department of Agriculture–to coordinate their research and create a database of information on plant research.

The report also encouraged more research into plant allergens and tests for the human immune system as well as continued research to determine if genetically modified plant pollen might make weeds resistant to pesticides. Adkisson added, “Public acceptance of these foods ultimately depends on the credibility of the testing and regulatory process.”

The 12-member NAS panel was comprised of researchers unaffiliated with government agencies. There was controversy when a key member of the panel, Dr. Michael Phillips, left to join the Biotechnology Industry Organization. Representatives Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and Jack Metcalf (R-Washington) wrote the NAS contending that the study should be redone. The Biotechnology Industry Organization replied that it was unnecessary to revisit the report, as Phillips “did not choose any of the members of the scientific panel that generated the report, left the National Academy of Science well in advance of the project’s conclusions, and did not write a single word of the report.”