THE GREAT FOOD GAMBLE: New GM Report Questions Safety Claims
The way GM foods are approved is not sufficient to protect human or animal health, a new report by Friends of the Earth concludes . "The Great Food Gamble " shows that current procedures are unlikely to pick up unexpected health effects, such as toxins or allergens, that may be created by GM foods.This problem is likely to be made worse by future GM foods, which are likely to use more complicated modifications.
In particular the report highlights:
The Challenges of GM food
Imprecise and blunt methods are currently used to insert new genes, which contrasts with the tight and precise control of native genes.Unexplained alterations in the composition of GM crops have already been observed for GM foods already on the market.
This concept is used as a baseline for GM safety tests.If the company can show that the GM food is similar to conventional food then it does not need to carry out proper safety testing.However a number of foods that show significant differences in composition have unexplainably been accepted as "substantially equivalent".In addition, there are differing definitions around the world and foods that have been approved for example in the USA, have been rejected or severely criticised by the EU.
Lack of scientific scrutiny
Very few of the safety studies carried out by biotech companies have been published and made available for scientific scrutiny.In addition some companies refuse to put key safety data into the public domain whilst publically stating that their products have gone through "extensive safety trials."
Higher risks in developing countries
Many GM foods show changes in composition to their conventional counterparts.The impacts of this on developing countries where sometimes a single food makes up a substantial part of the diet is a major concern.For example maize provides up to 59% of the daily protein for people in Central America.Richer people eat a more varied diet.
The US's GM guinea pigs
Until May last year there was no statutory oversight for GM crops in the US, only a voluntary consultation procedure.Over 45 foods are thought to be on the market with no monitoring or labelling. Any attempts to monitor for health effects at this stage would be extremely difficult if not impossible.
Adrian Bebb, GM Food Campaigner for Friends of the Earth said: "This report sounds the alarm bell over GM food safety.There is clearly a large difference between our ability to create GM crops and foods, and our ability to test whether they are safe to eat. If there was ever a case for a freeze on GM foods then it would be now.
With a new food ministry in the UK there is a real opportunity for the Government to rethink it's previous enthusiasm for GM foods and to put human safety before the profit margins of the biotech companies."
NOTES TO EDITORS
1.For example, Aventis' T25 herbicide tolerant maize shows differences in amino acid composition and significant differences in fatty acid composition.Novartis' insect-resistant Bt 176 maize shows "sporadic statistically significant differences between the genetically modified maize and control maize" (Novartis Safety Assessment 1994)
2.For example, Novartis has refused to release the data of its safety tests for Bt176 maize.
The Great Food Gamble can be found on the Friends of the Earth website at http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/reports/great_food_gamble.pdf