There is no scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs. According to a 2015 statement signed by 300 scientists, physicians and scholars, the claim of scientific consensus on GMOs frequently repeated in the media is “an artificial construct that has been falsely perpetuated.” In the newly-released film MODIFIED, renown researcher and UN Messenger of Peace Jane Goodall says “It’s a complete lie that there’s a consensus of scientific opinion that GMOs are safe. There’s no such consensus”.
What is Scientific Consensus?
A scientific consensus is the position that is generally agreed upon by most scientists in the applicable field. Scientific consensus does not preclude disagreement, and it does not require unanimity. It simply means that most relevant scientists are on the same page about a given issue.
One of the wonderful things about scientific consensus is that it changes over time to reflect what we know about the world around us. Once upon a time, scientific consensus held that the Earth is the center of the universe, continents remain fixed in place, and heavier objects fall faster than lighter objects. It takes time, context, and usually technology for scientific consensus to evolve.
GMOs Are Too New for There to Be a Scientific Consensus about Them.
GMOs are a relatively new technology, which means the body of research surrounding them is new as well. The very first GMO hit grocery stores in 1994, not even 25 years ago. Genetic engineering brings us new GMOs each year and these novel lifeforms are flooding into the marketplace with little regulatory oversight. It is impossible to know the impacts of a lifetime of GMO consumption, and it will be many more decades before humankind fully understands the complicated impacts of GMO agriculture.
GMOs Have Not Been Sufficiently Studied.
Furthermore, many of the studies that have been conducted were far too short to be relevant. A typical 90-day feed study does not adequately detect long term health effects in animals that live for many years, and very few multigenerational feed studies have been conducted.
We are still learning new things about GMOs all the time. Most GMOs are engineered to tolerate an herbicide (Ht), produce an insecticide (Bt), or both. These traits impact ecosystems in ways we are only beginning to understand. The emergence of Bt-resistant pests, the ongoing rise in pesticide use, and the recent wave of dicamba-related crop damage illustrate this point well. Some impacts of GMO agriculture are even more surprising. For example, a report from November 2017 suggests that some of the herbicides used in GMO agriculture may impact antibiotic resistance. Who knew?
Sometimes There is No Consensus.
Sometimes we just don’t have all the answers. This raises the question: What should happen when scientific understanding is lacking? Should we charge ahead, unaware of potential consequences, or should we wait until we are certain something is not harmful before we make it a part of our daily lives?
Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we had exercised caution with asbestos, tobacco, phthalates, and other harmful things that were once touted as technological miracles? We think so, and that’s why we advocate for following the precautionary principle. Unfortunately, it’s hard to exercise caution when genetically modified foods are not labeled. More than 60 countries around the world require GMO labeling, which gives consumers the ability to choose for themselves. We think everyone should have that right!