It has been almost 20 years since the first genetically modified foods showed up in produce aisles throughout the United States and the rest of the world, but controversy continues to surround the products and their regulation.
Bruce Chassy, a professor emeritus of food science and human nutrition at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, believes that after thousands of research studies and worldwide planting, “genetically modified foods pose no special risks to consumers or the environment” and are overregulated.
Chassy elaborated on this conclusion at the 2013 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston on Feb. 17. During his talk, “Regulating the Safety of Foods and Feeds Derived From Genetically Modified Crops,” Chassy shared his view that the overregulation of GM crops actually hurts the environment, reduces global health and burdens the consumer.
Farmers have witnessed the advantages of GM crops firsthand through increases in their yields and profit, and decreases in their labor, energy consumption, pesticide use and greenhouse gas emissions, Chassy said.
Despite these benefits, various regulatory agencies require newly developed GM crops to be put to the test with rigorous safety evaluations that include molecular characterization, toxicological evaluation, allergenicity assessments, compositional analysis and feeding studies. This extensive testing takes five to 10 years and costs tens of millions of dollars, and Chassy argues that this process “wastes resources and diverts attention from real food safety issues.”
“With more than half of the world’s population now living in countries that have adopted GM crops, it might be appropriate to reduce the regulatory scrutiny of GM crops to a level that is commensurate with science-based risk assessment,” Chassy said.
During his talk, Chassy chronicled the scientific tests used in pre-market safety assessments of GM foods and elaborated on the evidence from thousands of research studies and expansive GM plantings that he says show these crops do not present risks to consumers or the environment. The overregulation of GM foods is a response not to scientific evidence, Chassy said, but to a global campaign that disseminates misinformation and fear about these food sources.