In today’s world, genetically engineered (GE) crops and genetically modified organisms (GMO) stir up a lot of controversy over how they affect human health.
For some background on GMOs, check out the video below which explains how they’re created.
The opposition to GMOs is heavily centered around the claims that they are toxic for human health as well as the environment, but the scientific evidence tells a different story.
There’s no shortage of studies that claim to have found links between GMOs and a wide array of health problems, but the study designs are often flawed enough to invalidate the foundation of these bold claims.
For instance, a controversial rat study, led by Gilles-Éric Séralini, linked tumors to rats who were fed GMOs and/or a herbicide called glyphosate. However, the study design was innately flawed because the rats used in the research were predisposed to tumors, not to mention that the number of animals used was too small to arrive at any conclusions.
In fact, the paper was retracted, but then later republished in a different journal without being peer-reviewed, but because of the research flaws, “ it was not possible to determine if the tumors were due to the food, the chemical or to the fact that the strain of rats would get tumors regardless of what they were fed,” the Genetic Literacy Project’s Layla Katiraee reports.
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Another widespread anti-GMO claim is one that links glyphosate to birth defects. However, Katiraee, who holds a PhD in Molecular Genetics, says that no peer-reviewed, published scientific study has provided evidence for the claim.
Further, the claim that GMOs are linked to gluten disorders is unsupported by legitimate research. Reports in the media cite a “study” by the Institute for Responsible Technology (IRT), but IRT is run by one man, activist Jeffrey Smith, who advocates for the elimination of GMOs. IRT doesn’t conduct studies, and The Celiac Disease Foundation openly challenged the claim that GMOs are responsible for gluten disorders.
Seeing a trend? The most common arguments against GMOs are strongly hinged on questionable studies or pseudoscience reports that unfortunately went viral.
In fact, a 2-year analysis of nearly 900 journal articles, bundled into a hefty 400-page report, found evidence that GE crops have actually benefitted human health by increasing vitamin levels in developing countries and reducing insecticide poisonings.
"The committee carefully searched all available research studies for persuasive evidence of adverse health effects directly attributable to consumption of foods derived from GE crops but found none,” states a press release.
The team of 20 scientists commissioned by the US National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine also found no conclusive evidence of a cause-and-effect relationship between GE crops and environmental problems, although they admit it’s complicated to assess long-term environmental changes.
In conclusion, the claim that GMOs are bad for human health is largely based on pseudoscience and fear-mongering. Let the scientific evidence speak for itself.
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