Cautions about GMO Foods Have Come Under Question

GMO-tomatoCOLLEGE STATION, TEXAS – February 15, 2013 – The general consensus understood by the American people is that genetically modified foods are dangerous and may be linked to a number of potential health problems. The jury is still out on this, however, reports In recent months, a French study reported linkages between DNA-engineered foods and cancer in mice, but the study came under scrutiny for conflicts of interest, bad study design, manipulation of statistics, and numerous other methodological problems that stacked the deck against GMO foods. The European Food Safety Authority went so far as to state that “the authors’ conclusions cannot be regarded as scientifically sound, because of inadequacies in the design, reporting, and analysis of the study.”

In another report, food writer Ari LeVaux of The Atlantic published a story entitled “The Very Real Danger Of Genetically Modified Foods,” which came under fire from some researchers and science writers for its gaps in methodology. The LeVaux story drew from a Chinese study that found plant genetic material that had carried over into human tissue, and argued for a new regulatory framework for GMO plant foods. found critics of the LeVaux story have cited sloppy scientific method and reporting in his findings.

“The precautionary principle, while potentially flexible, functions in a context of ‘what if’ instead of evidence,” said writer Emily Willingham, according to the staff of “The precautionary principle fails to balance uncertainty against known risks, instead erring on the side of caution in every case.” Aside from regulatory issues, new investigations demonstrate that humans and animals have lived with this ingested genetic material from plants for a long time, not just from genetically modified plants. There is also no evidence of altered genetic material in those plants, which could potentially raise questions about The Atlantic article.

Another GMO rumor that has some crying foul is that of “terminator seed,” where companies have developed plants that put out infertile seed, forcing farmers to buy seed from them for next year’s crop. The companies in question have roundly denied this practice, although the rumor persists. According to writer Willingham, the key is to view any science story with a jaundiced eye. What are the sources? Does it appeal to emotion? Are there testimonials? Are there claims of exclusivity or, worse, conspiracies? Is there real expertise and scientific method involved? Any of these should raise red flags in the mind of an impartial reader.

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