Last May, the National Academies Press published a report entitled, Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects (available at https://www.nap.edu/download/23395). Notable quotes from the report include:
- “…no differences have been found that implicate a higher risk to human health safety from these GE foods than from their non-GE counterparts;”
- “…no evidence [has been reported] of cause-and-effect relationships between GE crops and environmental problems;”
- GE crops have “generally had favorable economic outcomes for producers who have adopted these crops, but there is high heterogeneity in outcomes;”
- Whether GE crops “benefit intended stakeholders will depend on the social and economic contexts in which the technology is developed and diffused;”
- “…it is the product, not the process, that should be regulated.”
Late in the year, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Board of Agriculture and Natural Resources convened a Forum of Scientific Society Leaders on Genetically-Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects. Invited participants were asked to consider future directions suggested by the findings of the report. The participants represented a highly diverse body of scientific societies and other organizations with an interest in the science behind the agronomic, health, environmental, and socioeconomic dimensions of GE crops. (I was invited to represent the American Phytopathological Society.)
One of the striking (though not surprising) aspects of my experience was how the distinguished participants in the forum generally agreed that the NAS report provided an authoritative, comprehensive, thoughtful review of peer-reviewed literature on highly diverse aspects of the subject of GE crops. You can see this for yourself at http://dels.nas.edu/Past-Events/Forum-Scientific-Society-Leaders/AUTO-5-80-52-G?utm_source=Division+on+Earth+and+Life+Studies&utm_campaign=9804e0d620-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2016_12_21&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_3c0b1ad5c8-9804e0d620-262640537&mc_cid=9804e0d620&mc_eid=9006ea2d48
In my prepared comments, I focused on aspects of how GE could contribute positively to crop production through more sustainable disease control (https://vimeo.com/album/4310385/video/195866079). Of course, this is a complex topic and six minutes doesn’t do it justice, but I provided some science-based points for others to consider. More on this can be found in my recent review paper: http://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/8/5/495.
I also spoke (during the Closing Discussion) about we must engage science teachers, to help make them aware of key scientific findings on GE crops. If we hope for a public that grounds its policy wishes on widely established scientific findings, along with its values, we must engage our science teachers on this topic.
The full report (nearly 600 pages) is available at the link provided above. Although the report itself is massive, an abbreviated file, containing only findings and recommendations, is available at http://nas-sites.org/ge-crops/files/2016/05/All-Findings-and-Recommendations.pdf. It is worth a look to see where consensus science lies, and where there are continuing scientific uncertainties.