The question on everyone’s mind when it comes to genetically modified food is, “Are GMO foods safe for my family to eat?” Surveys have found that only about 37% of Americans think GE foods are safe to eat, compared to 88% of scientists who believe they are safe. (Borel, 2017) Obviously there’s a serious disconnect between the science and what the public is being led to believe.
The general scientific consensus is that GM foods are safe to eat and have no discernible difference from regular foods. As former anti-GMO activist Mark Lyons states, ‘The view that GMO foods have no discernible impact on health is now the well-established consensus across the international scientific community. It includes not just the NAS (National Academy of Sciences) but the American Medical Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the U.K.’s Royal Society, the French Academy of Science, the African Academy of Sciences and numerous others.”
Even the European Commission, which has been the toughest critic of GMO foods, in 20 I 0 issued a report saying, “the main conclusion to be drawn from the efforts of more than 130 research projects, covering a period of more than 25 years of research, and involving more than 500 independent research groups, is that biotechnology, and in particular GMOs, are not per se more risky than … conventional plant breeding technologies.” (Lyons, 6-23-2018)
Even many of those sounding the alann about GM foods don’t actually believe in the dangers. Trevor Butterworth describes a conversation he had with a prominent healthy food chef whose website warns of the dangers of genetically modified foods When asked whether he really believed such hype, he indicated he didn’t. “It was simply for the mothers, he said, candidly,” Butterworth writes. “They ate it up–or, rather, they had swallowed so many apocalyptic warnings about genetically modified food that he had no choice but to echo their terror.” (Butterworth, 7-16-2013) Of course, reinforcing imaginary fears only makes things worse for society.
The evidence I’ve seen suggests that the hysteria over GMO foods is much like the hysteria over vaccines: A lot to do about nothing, fueled by irrational fears over something that seems unnatural. However, there are a couple caveats: The fact that GMO foods seem to be safe in general does not necessarily mean they are safe in every case. It is conceivable that certain types of genetic modifications could pose a risk to human health, especially when you’re talking about plants engineered to produce their own pesticides or be more tolerant of pesticides (which could in turn increase the amount of pesticides taken up by the plant).