It is all well and good to suggest that only peer-reviewed
papers should be used in the scientific debate on GMOs. However
the first scientific report mentions Monsanto's feeding studies
as evidence of "no harm" (p.68). So where have Monsanto's
studies been published and who has peer-reviewed them?
There is no foundation in the speculation (page 105) that
"many hundreds of millions of people" have been
eating GM foods or GM-fed animals "for up to seven years
with no substantiated adverse effects reported". We might
just as easily quote the statistic that in the same period
that GM food has been eaten, food-related incidents in the
US have doubled and, as such, might point the finger at the
novel foods. Neither of these statements is proof of anything.
However, we do know that there has been no monitoring programme
conducted in the United States and food is not labelled for
GM content. What has been reported and peer-reviewed is that
scientists at the Centres for Disease Control in the US found
that between 1994 and 1999, foodborne illnesses increased
two to ten-fold. The precise causes are unknown. However,
as the first indication of possible harm from GM food might
translate as a stomach upset, this is unlikely to go reported
to doctors. Only time will tell who is right and wrong but
bear in mind that a sick animal/plant might appear to be substantially
equivalent to one that is not, but this is no proof of safety.
As there have been no (or few) toxicological studies conducted
on target and non-target species who might eat GM food/feed/plants,
one would suppose that those that have shown adverse impacts
might set the alarm bells ringing. We now have evidence that
transgenic materials are not broken down in processing and
cooking, nor are they destroyed by stomach acids, gene transfer
has taken place in human gut bacteria, transgenes have been
found in gut cells, bloodstream and the liver of mice, various
studies have shown inflammatory and necrotic changes in the
alimentary canal. Do we need to take any more risks when we
still don't understand how genes work?
The report states (page 24) that the "appropriate agriculture
for the UK" includes one that would "allow coexistence
of farming systems." On a case by case basis, it is clear
that some crops, notably oil seed rape, cannot co-exist by
virtue of the nature of the promiscuity of the plant, the
existence of wild brassicas and the proclivity of oil seed
rape to become a weed in its own right that produces seed
that can lie dormant for 10 years. So, can we be assured that
some GM crops might be banned?
So will GM bring "safer, nutritionally enhanced"
GM foods, or will it be hype like Vitamin A rice that contains
a minute amount of Vitamin A? We doubt it, but there are plenty
of safe and nutritionally enhanced non-GM foods that will.