GM Foods Good/Safe
Risk-only assessment of genetically engineered crops is too risky (2019). Every new or improved technology, regardless of its particular field or application, can involve risk, potential risk, or perception of risk by stakeholders and/or end users. However, it is often overlooked that the rejection of technology also has risks in the form of missed opportunities for benefits. For example, a vaccine may cause allergic reactions in a small number of immunized individuals within a large population, but at the same time, a vaccine can greatly reduce the loss of life across that same population due to the immunity it provides to a serious disease [1, 2]. Without considering the potential benefits of a new technology in its regulatory oversight and acceptance, society as a whole is ill served. An example where the benefits have been found to greatly outweigh the risks is the case of genetically engineered (GE) crops [3, 4]. In jurisdictions where regulators consider risks and benefits of particular GE crops, such crops have been approved for cultivation and embraced by farmers in a way unprecedented for an agricultural technology  (Box 1). By contrast, where regulation focuses primarily on risk, without significantly weighing the context of the existing agricultural systems and the benefits GE crops bring relative to existing technology, farmers (and society) have been largely excluded from the environmental, health, and economic benefits of this technology [6, 7, 8]. Furthermore, the high cost of developing GE crops to meet risk-disproportionate regulatory requirements in countries that import significant volumes of food and feed crops has generally restricted the development of this technology to large multinational corporations aimed at wide-acre solutions for farmers in developed countries [9, 10]. Here, we discuss the context of modern agriculture and qualitatively compare risk/benefit analyses versus risk-only analysis, highlighting the risk of rejecting GE crops in the latter framework.
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2016). This 600 page volume concludes that GM foods are safe.
The available evidence indicates that GE soybean, cotton, and maize have generally had favorable economic outcomes for producers who have adopted these crops, but outcomes have been heterogeneous depending on pest abundance, farming practices, and agricultural infrastructure. The crops with the insect-resistant trait—based on genes from a bacterium (Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt)—generally decreased yield losses and the use of insecticides on small and large farms in comparison with non-Bt varieties. In some cases, widespread planting of those crops decreased the abundance of specific pests in the landscape and thereby contributed to reduced damage even to crops that did not have the Bt trait, and planting Bt crops has tended to result in higher insect biodiversity on farms than planting similar varieties without the Bt trait that were treated with synthetic insecticides. However, in locations where resistancemanagement strategies were not followed, damaging levels of resistance evolved in some target insects. Herbicide-resistant (HR) crops sprayed with the herbicide glyphosate often had small increases in yield in comparison with non-HR counterparts. Farm-level surveys did not find lower plant diversity in fields with HR crops than in those planted with non-GE counterparts. In areas where planting of HR crops led to heavy reliance on glyphosate, some weeds evolved resistance and present a major agronomic problem. Sustainable use of Bt and HR crops will require use of integrated pest-management strategies. There have been claims that GE crops have had adverse effects on human health. Many reviews have indicated that foods from GE crops are as safe as foods from non-GE crops, but the committee reexamined the original studies of this subject. The design and analysis of many animal-feeding studies were not optimal, but the large number of experimental studies provided reasonable evidence that animals were not harmed by eating food derived from GE crops. Additionally, long-term data on livestock health before and after the introduction of GE crops showed no adverse effects associated with GE crops. The committee also examined epidemiological data on incidence of cancers and other human-health problems over time and found no substantiated evidence that foods from GE crops were less safe than foods from non-GE crops. The social and economic effects of GE crops depend on the fit of the GE trait and the plant variety to the farm environment and the quality and cost of the GE seeds. GE crops have benefited many farmers on all scales, but genetic engineering alone cannot address the wide variety of complex challenges that face farmers, especially smallholders. Given the complexities of agriculture and the need for cohesive planning and execution, public and private support is essential if societal benefits are to be maximized over a long period and in different areas.
Review of GM Crops in Modern Agriculture (2017). Genetic modification in plants was first recorded 10,000 years ago in Southwest Asia where humans first bred plants through artificial selection and selective breeding. Since then, advancements in agriculture science and technology have brought about the current GM crop revolution. GM crops are promising to mitigate current and future problems in commercial agriculture, with proven case studies in Indian cotton and Australian canola. However, controversial studies such as the Monarch Butterfly study (1999) and the Séralini affair (2012) along with current problems linked to insect resistance and potential health risks have jeopardised its standing with the public and policymakers, even leading to full and partial bans in certain countries. Nevertheless, the current growth rate of the GM seed market at 9.83–10% CAGR along with promising research avenues in biofortification, precise DNA integration and stress tolerance have forecast it to bring productivity and prosperity to commercial agriculture.
Altered food (2019). This National Geographic article says GM food is safe
Genetically modified food opponents know less than they think (2019). This article isn’t great, but it says there is a scientific consensus that GM food are safe.
Genetically modified foods — solution for food security(2014). This title is self-explanatory and the article is published in a reputable, peer reviewed journal.
Genetically modified foods: What is and isn’t true (2013). This article claims that GM foods are safe to eat and institutions/advocacy group that have a contrary opinion are too biased – have a financial or ideological stake in the fight.
The truth about genetically modified foods (2013). This easy to read article discusses both sides of the debate but concludes that the best evidence demonstrates that GM foods are safe.
The Debate About GMO Safety Is Over, Thanks To A New Trillion-Meal Study (2014). Reviews thousands of studies that conclude that GM foods are safe for animals and humans.
2000+ studies affirm GM safety (2013). This article is similar to the previous article — it claims that a comprehensive review of studies concludes that GM foods are safe.
Why we will need genetically modified foods (2013). This article contends that increasing population combined with decreased crop yields from climate change necessitate GM foods.
Genetically modified crops should be part of Africa’s food future (2013). The title is self-explanatory.
GM Foods Bad/Dangerous
GMOS decoded: A Skeptics View of Genetically Modified Food (2019). This long book is highly technical and doesn’t have a lot of evidence. We do have the relevant evidence included in the release.
Angelika Hilbeck, Rosa Binimelis, Nicolas Defarge, et al., “No Scientific Consensus on GMO Safety,” Environmental Sciences Europe 27, no. 4 (2015): 1–6.
A review of the impact of genetically modified foods on human health. This scientific journal article reviews many of the benefits of GMOs but also identifies many health hazards.
Threats from genetically modified foods. An easy to read article that makes arguments about the dangers of GM foods and answers claims that they are good.
The GMO Emperor Has No Clothes: A Global Citizens Report on the State of GMOs. This report, written by a number of environmental and food safety non-governmental organizations
(NGOs), argues that GM foods are not safe and that they have not lived up to the benefits that proponents claim, such as reduced pesticide use and climate resiliency. I think this report is especially useful because it examines the empirical results of GMO food crops and doesn’t just engage in a discussion of the potential harm or benefits.
Genetically modified foods: An overview. This very recent (January 2014) report argues that GMOs increase pest resistance, threaten small farmers, and increase the costs of food production. It also answers the pro-GMO arguments. All of the claims made in the report are substantially documented.
Superweeds: How biotcech crops bolster the pesticide industry. This report argues that pests develop resistance to new GM crops, requiring stronger pesticides to be sprayed to combat the newly resistant pests. This requires that new pesticides be developed and then that new GM crops be developed that won’t be killed by the pesticides. Pests eventually become resistant to the new pesticides, requiring additional GM crops.