The scientific community is united in its consensus regarding the safety of Genetically Improved Foods (GIFs). The premier scientific body in the U.S., the National Academy of Sciences, calls them safe, noting that after billions of meals served, “no adverse health effects attributed to genetic engineering have been documented in the human population.”
The Academy has also found GIFs to be better for the environment, noting that such crops have reduced insecticide use, reduced use of the most dangerous herbicides, increased frequency of conservation tillage and no-till farming, reduced carbon emissions, reduced soil runoffs, and improved soil quality. The Academy concludes, “Generally, GE [GIF] crops have had fewer adverse effects on the environment than non-GE crops produced conventionally.”
Nevertheless, it is still refreshing when another top scientist comes out with reasoned analysis regarding their use. That’s what happened last week when Dr. Shane Burgess, vice provost and dean of the University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, wrote in the Arizona Republic that GIFs increase well-being. Among the highlights:
- Genetically modified crops contribute to American families paying less for the safest food in the world than families in any other country. The crops are part of the most efficient, effective and environmentally sustainable agricultural production systems worldwide. They are considered by the world’s scientific bodies, non-governmental organizations and conservation groups to be part of our environmentally sustainable future.
- Genetically modified crops provide the same nutrition as, or even more than, conventional crops, but they do not contribute to increased allergies. If potential food allergens are introduced into a food that normally does not carry that allergen, then the food label must declare this. The Food and Drug Administration requires scientific evidence that no potential allergen was introduced into genetically modified products.
- Genetically modified crops can use water more efficiently and effectively. Because they don’t require soil tillage, genetically modified crops decrease fuel use and soil erosion. Insecticide use in Arizona has decreased by more than 80 percent since genetically modified cotton was introduced.
Dr. Burgess also spoke about the fear-mongering campaign, led by junk-science outlets like the Environmental Working Group, to label GIFs. According to him, labeling at the state level being pushed by activists would disproportionately hurt the poor:
- A well-designed, uniform and national effort to fully inform you about how your food is produced is better and cheaper than a state-by-state patchwork. All costs will be transferred to you, the consumer. The biggest losers of all will be our most vulnerable — those 15.9 million children in the 14.5 percent of U.S. households that battle food insecurity daily.
GIFs are cheaper, healthier, and better for the environment than conventional agriculture. Labeling is unnecessary, alarmist, and unfair to the poor. The correct policy choice is obvious.