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GMO science – overwhelming consensus that it is safe

Real science is hard. It takes lots of high quality evidence to support it. That evidence needs to be published in real journal. It needs to be repeated. And it has to be open to criticism and analysis. GMO science, the study of genetically modified organisms used for crops and food, shows us that GMOs are safe.

The hard work and intellectual challenges to form a scientific consensus about the safety of GMO crops and foods isn’t something that appeared out of the ether. These individuals didn’t suddenly wake up one day and proclaim from the ivory tower that GMO science says that GMOs are safe. Not even close.

Science has provided substantial evidence supporting the assertion that GMO’s are safe. GMO refusers have provided precious little evidence, save for Cherry PickingSpecial Pleading, and a few Strawman Arguments. Oh, and the occasional Poisoning the Well with the Monsanto shill accusations. Sometimes the GMO deniers will resort to the Naturalistic Fallacy that things that grow “naturally” ought to be the way foods should be – this ignores the fact that we’ve been genetically manipulating our food for ten thousand years. We’re just better at it today, but the DNA is still the DNA.

Like I said in another article, “The typical pseudoscientist will use logical fallacies to state very definitively that “it’s proven.” It’s the same whether it’s creationism (the belief that some magical being created the world some small number of years ago), alternative medicine (homeopathy, which is nothing but water, has magical properties to cure everything from cancer to male pattern baldness), or vaccine denialists. The worst problem is that in the world of the internet, if you Google these beliefs, the number of websites and hits that seem to state that they are THE TRUTH™ overwhelm those that are more skeptical or critical.”

So, using an open, but critical mind, the evidence is overwhelming – the GMO science says it’s safe for human consumption.


About GMO science

Without really trying (though it took several days to read through the articles), I found 118 peer-reviewed articles, mostly published in moderate to high impact factor journals that support the safety of GMO crops over a wide range of hypotheses: from transgenic particles in bovine milk to how non targeted insects survive when consuming or interacting with GMO plants. I found several meta reviews, which, as I’ve said before are the highest quality sources of evidence. None of this research was sponsored by corporations, so, please don’t bring the “scientist was paid off” argument.

There were hundreds of other articles I could have included. But these are the ones I judged to be the best. And if you add up all of the conclusions written from this GMO science, a consensus forms. And that is that GMO’s are generally safe. There will be no transgenic DNA in your glass of milk. The transgenic DNA isn’t going to be absorbed through your intestine and cause some autoimmune reaction.

And I just didn’t find the articles that supported my “beliefs” or “opinions.” I found the best articles period. Indisputably, these articles support the broad scientific consensus that GMO foods are safe.

Even independent scientific organizations agree. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is a prestigious international non-profit organization that has as its stated goals to promote cooperation among scientists, to defend scientific freedom, to encourage scientific responsibility, and to support scientific education and science outreach for the betterment of all humanity. AAAS is the world’s largest and most prestigious general scientific society, and is the publisher of the well-known scientific journal Science

The AAAS emphatically states, through the principle  that evolution and human caused climate change are scientific facts, so the organization is not in the hands of scientific lunatics or deniers. And with respect to GMO science, the AAAS has clearly and unreservedly published the scientific consensus regarding genetically modified foods (pdf):

The science is quite clear: crop improvement by the modern molecular techniques of biotechnology is safe … The World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the British Royal Society, and every other respected organization that has examined the evidence has come to the same conclusion: consuming foods containing ingredients derived from GM crops is no riskier than consuming the same foods containing ingredients from crop plants modified by conventional plant improvement techniques.

If you, as a scientist or lay person, want to contradict this scientific consensus, then you need to bring published scientific evidence that refutes this consensus. Not one cherry picked article in a lousy journal, but robust quality and quantity of evidence in approximately the same levels as seen with the GMO science we see now.

But be forewarned, if it is junk science, I will call it junk science, like Gilles-Eric Séralini et al.’s paper about GMO corn causing cancer. That study was poorly designed, utilized bad statistics, and really provided no evidence whatsoever for anything except that Séralini is an incompetent scientist. Because openminded doesn’t mean I accept all evidence as being equivalent – being openminded means a willingness to review and critique new data and determine if it’s of sufficient quality and quantity to move the consensus. Claiming that Monsanto or Big Agra are suppressing the evidence is simply a logical fallacy unworthy of discussion.

But the most important thing is that science isn’t a vote based on the number of papers published. But when the consensus is so heavily weighted to the safety of GMO’s, it’s hard to see anything but a landslide. Now, I know that the typical GMO refuser will cherry pick a couple of poorly designed studies and try to refute all of these. Or they’ll read one or two of the articles, and pick out a sentence that might say “GMO fields showed slightly less insect activity than unused land” (while ignoring all of the other sentences).

If you’re asserting that GMO’s are dangerous–provide evidence. And it better be published in a relatively high impact journal. Because right now the GMO science is pretty overwhelming with respect to safety

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in June 2013. It has been completely revised and updated to include more comprehensive information, to improve readability and to add current research.


GMO science citations:

  1. Álvarez-Alfageme F, von Burg S, Romeis J. Infestation of transgenic powdery mildew-resistant wheat by naturally occurring insect herbivores under different environmental conditions. PLoS One. 2011;6(7):e22690. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0022690. Epub 2011 Jul 28. PubMed PMID: 21829479; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3145666.
  2. Anilkumar B, Reddy AG, Kalakumar B, Rani MU, Anjaneyulu Y, Raghunandan T, Reddy YR, Jyothi K, Gopi KS. Sero-biochemical Studies in Sheep Fed with Bt Cotton Plants. Toxicol Int. 2010 Jul;17(2):99-101. doi: 10.4103/0971-6580.72680. PubMed PMID: 21170255; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2997465
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