Almost all the genetically modified (GM) crops approved by various governments around the world are not worth it. In 81 percent of the cases, there was approval despite an incompletely published peer-reviewed research to approve their safety, this is according to new research documented in the risk assessment journal Environment International.
The researchers studied various GM crops that had been engineered for their tolerance level to Roundup (herbicide glyphosate) or to produce their own pesticides as a result of expression of cry3Bb1 or cry1Ab1 genes. These are the commonest traits in most commercial GM crops.
Up to 47 of the GM modified crop species that meet the condition have already received approval from some food safety regulatory agency. The researchers conducting the study searched literature on the safety of the varieties, but only studies published prior to the crops were published. This enabled them determine the extent to which safety regulations relied on secret, vs. published, research.
Approval founded on biased industry data
In their literature search, the researchers found just 18 peer reviewed studies critiquing the safety of either of the 47 crops that already had been published prior to the crops under question getting official regulatory approval. The studies covered just 9 of the total 47 crop varieties, implying that the remainder GMO varieties were approved without any credible scientific evidence on their safety. It’s also good to note that, majority of the 18 studies were affected by the extremely serious flaws that limited their scientific validity, such as failing to describe the methodologies used, lack of basic information, or in extreme cases the individual results!
This implies that the regulatory agencies approving the GMO crops rely on the information provided by the companies making GMOs. This research never passed a test done by independent scientists, and this made the government appointed regulators the only arbiters of the reliability of studies conducted.
The new approval process suffered one major limitation, having to rely on published studies which just involved feeding rats a GM crop and monitoring the health effects from intake. As much as there are several other safety studies that can be carried out, this is the most widely accepted model for testing the safety of any human food. As well, it’s a common practice that the companies making GM crops conduct such studies on their products at given time intervals and submit data to the various regulators, and this raises worries why only some of the studies the research looked into, were submitted to be reviewed independent scientists.
As much as a number of the studies conducted after the GM crops under review were approved, the overdue delay in publication calls for questioning of the reliability of the data published at the end.
Systemic changes required
The fact holds that most of the safety regulators have failed to follow approved scientific procedure in approval of GM crops. A study carried out in 2014 and published in the BioScience journal found out that here are many similar problems for most of the pesticide approval processes.
The main issue with the prevailing safety approval procedures for GM crops is the fact that most of the companies are expected to first of all test their products before release into the market.
According to the researchers, risk assessment loses credibility when a only a small sample is used to predict a large population, more-so if most of the data included in the assessment is obtained from the pesticide manufacturer, and this usually constitutes conflict of interest.
The authors suggested that the burden of safety research should be shifted to independent institutions that have no financial ties whatsoever to the pesticide manufacturers.
As much as some of the manufacturers who gain from sale of chemical sales should be allowed to continue bearing the costs for testing their products, this can easily get accomplished without any conflict of interest arising by testing via an independent party, who doesn’t expect any benefits from the outcome, and doesn’t have any ties with the manufacturer.