Show Buttons
Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Hide Buttons

Home » Biotechnology »News » Currently Reading:

No Scientific Consensus on Safety of Genetically Modified Organisms

October 21, 2013 Biotechnology, News 1 Comment

Press release from ENSSER:

There is no scientific consensus on the safety of genetically modified foods and crops, according to a statement released today by an international group of more than 90 scientists, academics and physicians.[1]

The statement comes in response to recent claims from the GM industry and some scientists, journalists, and commentators that there is a “scientific consensus” that GM foods and crops were generally found safe for human and animal health and the environment. The statement calls these claims “misleading”, adding, “This claimed consensus on GMO safety does not exist.”



“Such claims may place human and environmental health at undue risk and create an atmosphere of complacency,” states Dr. Angelika Hilbeck, chairperson of the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER) and one of the signatories. “The ENSSER statement draws attention to the diversity of opinion over GMOs in the scientific community and the often contradictory or inconclusive findings of studies on GMO safety. These include toxic effects on laboratory animals fed GM foods, increased pesticide use from GM crop cultivation, and the unexpected impacts of Bt insecticidal crops on beneficial and non-target organisms,” Dr Hilbeck continues.

In spite of this nuanced and complex picture, a group of like-minded people makes sweeping claims that GM crops and foods are safe. In reality, many unanswered questions remain and in some cases there is serious cause for concern.

Prof C. Vyvyan Howard, a medically qualified toxicopathologist based at the University of Ulster and a signatory to the statement, said: “A substantial number of studies suggest that GM crops and foods can be toxic or allergenic. It is often claimed that millions of Americans eat GM foods with no ill effects. But as the US has no GMO labeling and no epidemiological studies have been carried out, there is no way of knowing whether the rising rates of chronic diseases seen in that country have anything to do with GM food consumption or not. Therefore this claim has no scientific basis.”

The signatories to the statement call for compliance to the precautionary approach to GM crops and foods internationally agreed upon in the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and UN’s Codex Alimentarius.

Commenting on the statement, one of the signatories, Prof Ernst-Ulrich von Weizsäcker, Co-Chair of the International Resource Panel (UNEP) and Co-President of The Club of Rome, said: “The future of food and agriculture is one of the great challenges of humankind of the 21st century. The claim of scientific consensus on GMO safety is misleading and misrepresents diverse and inconclusive scientific evidence. The full range of scientific research needs to be taken into account, in open, transparent and honest debates which involve the broader society, when decisions of global concern are being made. This is a responsibility of scientists and science.”

Another signatory to the statement, Prof Brian Wynne, associate director and co-principal investigator from 2002-2012 of the UK ESRC Centre for the Economic and Social Aspects of Genomics, Cesagen, Lancaster University, said: “It is misleading and irresponsible for anyone to claim that there is a consensus on these important issues. Many salient questions remain open, while more are being discovered and reported by independent scientists in the international scientific literature. Indeed answering of some key public interest questions based on such research have been left neglected for years by the huge imbalance in research funding, against thorough biosafety research and in favour of the commercial-scientific promotion of the technology.”

This statement is released by ENSSER the week after the World Food Prize was awarded to employees of the GM seed giants Monsanto and Syngenta. This award has provoked outrage worldwide and stands in stark contrast to recent rulings in several countries restricting or banning the field release or commercialisation of certain GM crops. These include 9 countries in Europe and Mexico, but also developing countries like Bangladesh, Philippines, India where an indefinite moratorium on field release trials was recommended by the Technical Expert Committee of the Supreme Court unless certain conditions are met including proper safety testing. [2, 3, 4, 5] Furthermore, GMO approvals are under legal challenge in Argentina and Brazil due to questions over the scientific basis of approvals. [6] Most if not all of them underline the lack of proof of safety and insufficient testing.

Signatories of the statement include prominent and respected scientists, including Dr Hans Herren, a former winner of the World Food Prize and this year’s Alternative Nobel Prize laureate, and Dr Pushpa Bhargava, known as the father of modern biotechnology in India.

2. on court ruling in Mexico:
3. on court ruling in the Philippines:
4. on recommendations in India:
5. on Bangladesh:
6. on Argentina and Brazil:

Further statements of signatories:

Andy Stirling, professor of science and technology policy at Sussex University and formerly a member of the UK government’s GM Science Review Panel, said: “The main reason some multinationals prefer GM technologies over the many alternatives is that GM offers more lucrative ways to control intellectual property and global supply chains. To sideline open discussion of these issues, related interests are now trying to deny the many uncertainties and suppress scientific diversity. This undermines democratic debate – and science itself.”

Dr Arpad Pusztai, signatory to the statement and Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, said: “Testing GM food properly would serve the interest of the biotech industry, as well. As Dr Richard P. Feynman said: ‘For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.’ “

The document is now open for further signatures and all agreeing with the content are invited to sign the statement at:

German/ English contact: Angelika Hilbeck [email protected] / Tel.: +49 30 20 654 857
French contact: Nicolas Defarge [email protected] / Tel.: +33 76 045 5677
Spanish contact: Rosa Binimelis [email protected] / Tel.: +34-65 223 2057

Currently there is "1 comment" on this Article:

  1. Bob Phelps says:

    Thanks to these experts for speaking up despite the intimidation practiced by the GM industry and its pro-GM warriors against those who disagree with them. There is now sufficient independent evidence from peer-reviewed and published research to conclude that some varieties of genetically manipulated soy, corn and canola harm experimental animals, and maybe also the people who unwittingly eat GM ingredients. The GM industry’s blanket opposition to the full and honest labelling of GM food products strongly suggests that they are hiding risks and hazards. Our regulators are pathetically weak and unscientific in their assessments of GM food ingredients, though they have no established record of safe use, as the ENSSER scientists confirm.

Comment on this Article:

Science News on the Web

Why Independent Science News?

Scientific inventions and ideas shape the future. As science becomes ever more beset by commercial and ideological pressures, there is urgent need for scientific reporting and analysis from an independent, expert, public interest perspective. With this standard, Independent Science News works to shape a future that is biodiverse, just, and healthy for everyone.
More about us...

Sign up to our mailing list

E-mail address:
Name (optional):

Related News Articles

What Happened to Obama’s Promise to Restore Scientific Integrity?

New Research Links Neonicotinoid Pesticides to Monarch Butterfly Declines

EU Safety Institutions Caught Plotting an Industry “escape route” Around Looming Pesticide Ban

How “Extreme Levels” of Roundup in Food Became the Industry Norm

Can the Scientific Reputation of Pamela Ronald, Public Face of GMOs, Be Salvaged?

The Experiment Is on Us: Science of Animal Testing Thrown into Doubt

New Report Links Food, Climate and Agricultural Policies

Psychiatrists plead to continue funding of genetic approaches to disease


Why Cancer Research Has Stalled

T. Colin Campbell

By T. Colin Campbell (Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus, Cornell University) A recent publication, which received sustained media attention, claimed that most cancers are just “bad luck” (Tomasetti and Vogelstein 2015). Its authors stated that only about one-third of cancer mutations are caused by known lifestyle or environmental factors (smoking, alcohol …

The Puppetmasters of Academia (or What the NY Times Left out)

Food Industry Enlisted Academics

by Jonathan Latham, PhD “Reading the emails make(s) me want to throw up” tweeted the Food Babe after reading a lengthy series of them posted online by the NY Times on Sept 5th. The emails in question result from a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and are posted in …

Growing Doubt: a Scientist’s Experience of GMOs

Jonathan Latham

Jonathan R. Latham, PhD By training, I am a plant biologist. In the early 1990s I was busy making genetically modified plants (often called GMOs for Genetically Modified Organisms) as part of the research that led to my PhD. Into these plants we were putting DNA from various foreign organisms, …

Neoliberal Ebola: The Agroeconomic Origins of the Ebola Outbreak

Guinea Forest Region in 2014

by Rob Wallace The notion of a neoliberal Ebola is so beyond the pale as to send leading lights in ecology and health into apoplectic fits. Here’s one of bestseller David Quammen’s five tweets denouncing my hypothesis that neoliberalism drove the emergence of Ebola in West Africa. I’m an “addled …

More Commentaries...


Poison Spring: The Secret History of Pollution and the EPA

Poison Spring Evaggelos Valllianatos

Book Author: Evaggelos Vallianatos with McKay Jenkins Reviewed by: Carol Van Strum “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts,” Richard Feynman famously declared in 1966. Ever quick to challenge accepted wisdom, he distinguished the laudable ignorance of science, forever seeking unattainable certainties, from the dangerous ignorance of experts …

The Real Cost of Fracking: How America’s Shale Gas Boom Is Threatening Our Families, Pets, and Food

The Real Cost of Fracking book cover

Book Authors: Michelle Bamberger and Robert Oswald Reviewed by Allison Wilson (The Bioscience Resource Project) The first researchers to systematically document ill health in livestock, pets, and people living near fracking drill sites were Michelle Bamberger and Robert Oswald. Bamberger, a veterinarian, and Oswald, a professor of molecular medicine at …

More Reviews...