The resounding claim of GMO proponents is that GMOs have been proven safe. Some scientists are quite emphatic about this, such as Dr. Pamela Ronald from UC Davis, who says:
“Genetically engineered crops currently on the market are as safe to eat and safe for the environment as organic or conventional foods.”
Dr. Roger Clemens, from the USC Department of Pharmacology, also weighs in,saying:
“They're tested and evaluated in voluminous documentation that would fill this backyard. We don't know of any health risk at this particular time.”
Dr. Clemens also defends food additives, sugar, and processed foods, but I digress…
The problem with concluding that GMOs are safe is that the argument for their safety rests solely on animal studies. These studies are offered as evidence that the debate over GMOs is over. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Animal studies have value in that if something demonstrates harm in animals, it will also likely cause harm in humans. Although some animal studies have found harmfrom a GMO diet, these hotly debated studies are not the point of this article. The point is, if an animal study does not find harm with a particular substance, it could still cause harm in humans.
Considering that biology, gene regulation and expression, and the impact of a substance on a particular gene can vary so much, it makes perfect sense that animal research is not the best model to determine the long-term health effects of GMOs in humans.
In fact, Dr. Ralph Heywood, past scientific director of the Huntington Research Centre (U.K.), found that the agreement between animal and human toxicology tests is below 25 percent. He has determined that there is no way of knowing what kind of toxic effect will show up in animals versus humans.
Instead of animal studies, epidemiological studies have been identified as the best wayto verify the effects of a substance and its risk to humans.
Ultimately, we need GMO labeling so we can do the epidemiological studies that are essential to determine their risk. Without long-term data — in humans — no one can make the claim that GMOs are proven safe.