Genetically improved crops are rigorously tested and proven safe, a panel of University of Nebraska agricultural researchers and professors told an audience of eastern Nebraska residents on August 20.
The panel, which gathered at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, had invited dozens of randomly selected Nebraskans to hear about advances in biotechnology and ask any questions they might have about the genetic enhancement of crops.
“There is no example of anyone in the world being hurt or [becoming] sick, no documented case,” said Michael Fromm, director of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Center for Biotechnology. “The record is actually perfect.”
According to the University of Nebraska Public Policy Center and the Lincoln Journal Star, 60 percent of the corn and 92 percent of the soybeans planted in Nebraska are genetically enhanced. Worldwide, 25 percent of cultivated crops are genetically enhanced.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor Anne Vidaver said genetically improved crops are at least as safe as non-modified crops. Genetically improved crops must undergo more rigorous testing than non-modified crops, she told the Journal Star. Moreover, said Vidaver, because the human body quickly breaks down foods, there is virtually no long-term risk from the genetically improved foods people have already eaten.
Swiss Study Agrees
A new study conducted by Switzerland’s Federal Institute of Technology supports the Nebraska scientists’ conclusions.
Swiss scientists conducted an outdoor experiment on genetically improved wheat. “The test confirmed laboratory results that the KP4 gene improved wheat’s resistance to fungi by 10 percent,” reported Swiss Radio International on September 8. “Safety tests on pollen distribution and soil analysis also showed that the GM wheat posed no increased risk to humans or the environment.”
Greenpeace activists opposed the research, and “we will continue to oppose these risky experiments,” spokesperson Yves Zenger told Swiss Radio International. “We are disappointed that our opposition was not taken seriously this time.”
“We were aware of the opposition, but the researchers had proved that the experiment was of a scientifically high value, complied with the laws, and had obtained all the necessary approval from the government,” professor Ulrich Suter of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology told Swiss Radio International.
“I would appreciate plants that need less chemicals,” added project leader Christof Sautter. “From a scientific point of view there is no need for this opposition to gene technology.”
Real-World Biotech Benefits
“Biotech crops have been grown in the United States and around the world for two decades, and people have been eating them for 10 years,” said Greg Conko, director of food safety policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. “Today, biotech crops are grown on over 200 million acres, and hundreds of millions of people eat biotech foods every day.
“Not a single human illness or environmental harm can be attributed to biotech crops, but countless benefits can,” Conko noted. “Improvements as diverse as cleaner air and water, reduced impact on wild biodiversity, and even a reduction in the risk of foodborne illnesses, all can be attributed to biotech crops.”
— James Hoare