More than 1,600 sign petition on G.M.O. safety, benefits

by Jeff Gelski
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More than 1,600 sign petition on G.M.O. safety, benefits
More than 1,600 from the plant science community have signed a petition related to the safety and benefits of genetic engineering.

ROCKVILLE, MD. — More than 1,600 people from the plant science community by Feb. 22 had signed a petition related to the safety and benefits of genetic engineering. The petition advocates the position taken by the Rockville-based American Society of Plant Biologists that “supports the continued responsible use of genetic engineering as an effective tool for advancing food security and reducing the negative environmental impacts of agriculture.”

The petition stands in contrast to a 2013 statement from the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER), Berlin, Germany, and signed by more than 300 independent researchers. The statement claimed no global consensus exists on the safety of bioengineered ingredients/G.M.O.s. Restaurant chain Chipotle Mexican Grill, Denver, in 2015 cited the ENSSER statement in justifying its campaign promoting its use of non-bioengineered/non-G.M.O. ingredients.

The petition in support of the American Society of Plant Biologists’ position said U.S. regulatory agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency demanded safety testing of new genetically engineered food products.

“In contrast, conventional and organic crops created by classical breeding undergo no safety testing,” the petition said.

The petition added, “Since the commercial introduction of G.E. crops in 1996, there has not been a single documented instance of harm to human health.”

The petition also said genetic engineering is an effective tool for advancing food security and reducing agriculture’s negative impacts on the environment. The petition said the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations anticipates the need for a 70% increase in agricultural productivity to meet the food, feed, fiber and fuel needs of the ever-growing world’s population.

“G.E. crops can provide major health benefits to people throughout the world, especially in developing countries where food insecurity and malnutrition are still prevalent,” the petition said.

A letter that appeared in the Feb. 19 issue of the journal Science referred to the petition and carried the headline “Plant scientists: G.M. technology is safe.” The letter said the A.S.P.B., the petition signers and other scientists in governmental and scientific organizations throughout the world show a consensus: “Current use of genetic modification technology for crops is safe and effective, and future use should be guided by scientific evidence.”

The letter also said arguments from the anti-G.M.O. side often are founded on unsound science, such as a rat study that was retracted later. Members of the Carnegie Institution for Science, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and the National Laboratory of Genomic for Biodiversity in Mexico signed the letter in Science.

The letter sought to counteract the 2013 statement from ENSSER. Besides Chipotle, The Non-GMO Project, Bellingham, Wash., a third-party verification and labeling entity for non-G.M.O. food and products, also cites the ENSSER statement, according to the letter.

“Commercial entities have seized upon ENSSER’s statements,” the letter said.

The ENSSER statement was featured in an article carrying the headline “No scientific consensus on G.M.O. safety” that appeared in the Jan. 24, 2015, issue of Environmental Sciences Europe. The article said the “scarcity and contradictory nature” of published scientific data prevents claims of the safety of bioengineered ingredients/G.M.O.s.

For more on the petition supporting the stance of the American Society of Plant Biologists, visit link.

For more on the ENSSER statement, visit link.
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