Something for Washington state voters to chew on as they consider ballot initiative for labeling of genetically modified foods...
By Ernest A. Canning on 10/25/2013, 5:58pm PT  

A headline in the bi-monthly magazine, Pacific Standard declares: "The Scientific Debate About GM Foods Is Over: They're Safe". The article cites multiple scientific journals and governmental organizations to support the assertion.

Anyone reading the article might assume that, like global climate change, there is a consensus within the scientific community that food made of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are perfectly safe for human consumption; that there's no need for a debate; that the now-pending initiative to require GM foods to be labeled as such in Washington State is just silly.

After articles like the one offered by Pacific Standard --- and a $17.2 million ad campaign by Monsanto and the Grocer's Manufacturing Association --- enough Evergreen State voters are seemingly now convinced that there is no need to label GMOs that pollsters have declared the initiative "too close to call" at the moment. Why, after all, should we bother to label food in the face of a scientific consensus that GMOs are perfectly safe?

The problem is, according to the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Studies (ENSSER), no such scientific consensus exists...

In an Oct. 21 Statement [PDF] signed by 90 scientists, academics and physicians, ENSSER insists the debate over GMO safety is far from over.

The ENNSER statement not only affirmatively denies the existence of a "scientific consensus on GMO safety," but claims that "most studies concluding that GM foods were as safe and nutritious as those obtained by conventional breeding were 'performed by biotechnology companies or associates, which are responsible [for] commercializing these GM plants.'"

ENSSER challenges the methodology of such studies, noting that studies which involve "one group of animals…fed GM food and another…an equivalent non-GM diet" are "rare." The rare studies that did apply such rigorous scientific methodology "have revealed toxic effects or signs of toxicity in GM-fed animals."

"The concerns raised by these studies," the ENSSER scientists say, "have not been followed up by targeted research that could confirm or refute the initial findings."

The group further decries the absence of "epidemiological studies investigating potential effects of GM food consumption on human health." The report asserts: "Claims that scientific and governmental bodies endorse GMO safety are exaggerated and inaccurate."

For example, a 2010 report by the European Union research project entitled "A decade of EU-funded GMO research (2001-2010)" has been "cited internationally as providing evidence for GM crop and food safety." In reality, the cited EU report was the product of a research project that "was not designed to test the safety of any single GM food, but [instead was designed] to focus on 'the development of safety assessment approaches.'"

There were only five (5) "animal feeding studies" referenced in the EU report, none of which "tested [commercialized] GM food; none tested the GM food for long-term effects beyond the sub-chronic period of 90 days; all found differences in the GM-fed animals, which in some cases were statistically significant; and none concluded on the safety of the GM food tested, let alone on the safety of GM foods in general."

Something to chew on as the debate over GMO labeling rages on...

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Ernest A. Canning has been an active member of the California state bar since 1977. Mr. Canning has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science as well as a juris doctor. He is also a Vietnam vet (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968). Follow him on Twitter: @Cann4ing.