Guest essay by Eric Worrall
A new schism appears to be opening in the green movement, comparable to the divisions over the climate benefits of nuclear power, about whether GM crops could help save us from Climate Change.
Genetically Engineered Crops Are Safe and Possibly Good for Climate Change
The National Academy of Sciences reaffirmed GMO safety and pointed to the potential for future improvements.
Genetic engineering could play a role in making crops more resilient to climate change, but more research is still needed to understand the technology’s potential uses, the National Academy of Sciences said yesterday.
In a sweeping 400-page report, the country’s top scientific group found there was not evidence to support claims that genetically modified organisms are dangerous for either the environment or human health. At the same time, the introduction of genetically engineered crops had little apparent influence on the rate at which agricultural productivity was increasing over time.
In the future, the academy said, researchers and regulators should be sure to evaluate the safety and efficacy of specific crops, rather than focus on potential risk posed by the process of modifying the plants.
“The technology is changing so rapidly, we needed to see where it is taking us in the future,” said Fred Gould, chairman of the NAS Committee on Genetically Engineered Crops, which conducted the report, and a professor of entomology at North Carolina State University.
Michael Hansen, an evolutionary ecologist and senior scientist at the Consumers Union, called the report “schizophrenic” in its stance on safety testing of GE crops.
“On the one hand, it says that we should regulate by the product, and not the process, but then goes on to admit that the newer GE techniques, such as gene editing and synthetic biology, will produce more diverse and complex traits in more crops that could raise new safety concerns, noting that even the newer gene editing techniques have off-target effects,” he said.
The following is the description of the report;
Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects (2016)
Genetically engineered (GE) crops were first introduced commercially in the 1990s. After two decades of production, some groups and individuals remain critical of the technology based on their concerns about possible adverse effects on human health, the environment, and ethical considerations. At the same time, others are concerned that the technology is not reaching its potential to improve human health and the environment because of stringent regulations and reduced public funding to develop products offering more benefits to society. While the debate about these and other questions related to the genetic engineering techniques of the first 20 years goes on, emerging genetic-engineering technologies are adding new complexities to the conversation.
Genetically Engineered Crops builds on previous related Academies reports published between 1987 and 2010 by undertaking a retrospective examination of the purported positive and adverse effects of GE crops and to anticipate what emerging genetic-engineering technologies hold for the future. This report indicates where there are uncertainties about the economic, agronomic, health, safety, or other impacts of GE crops and food, and makes recommendations to fill gaps in safety assessments, increase regulatory clarity, and improve innovations in and access to GE technology.
Read more (paywalled): http://www.nap.edu/catalog/23395/genetically-engineered-crops-experiences-and-prospects
If there is one thing more than anything else which undermines the credibility of greens, it is these silly disagreements about the “safety” of controversial climate mitigation technologies, such as nuclear power and genetic engineering.
If greens truly believe our climate, our ecosystem, is on the brink of collapse, why are they so worried about the risk of a few nuclear meltdowns, or hypothetical food safety issues associated with GM technology?