Wednesday, May 18, 2016

GMO foods safe for humans, but could be bad for agriculture, National Academy study finds

A report by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine found no evidence that genetically modified foods are harmful to people, animals or the environment, Adam Darby reports for The Kansas City Star. "However, it is unclear whether genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, have increased crop yields, the study says, and the evolution of resistance in insects and weeds is a problem." The study's author said "evolved resistance to current GE characteristics in crops is a major agricultural problem.”

Researchers say "that new techniques, like a way to make small genetic changes in plants using genome-editing, are blurring the distinction between genetic engineering and conventional plant breeding, making the existing regulatory system untenable," Andrew Pollack reports for The New York Times. They call "for a new system that pays more attention to the attributes of the crop, as opposed to the way in which it was created."

Calls for mandatory labeling "has steadily grown louder for mandatory labeling, as consumers and food advocates say they have a right to know what's in their food," Greg Trotter reports for the Chicago Tribune. "Meanwhile, many food companies have maintained such labeling would be misleading because there's nothing harmful about GMO ingredients."

The report was widely criticized before it even came out, Seth Borenstein reports for The Associated Press. "Food & Water Watch criticized the National Academy as taking funding from biotechnology firms and using 'pro-GMO scientists' to write its reports. The report was funded by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the New Venture Fund, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the academy itself—none of which have direct connections to the agricultural biotechnology industry. It was peer reviewed by outside experts and committee members are vetted for financial conflicts of interests, said academy spokesman William Kearney."

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