The internet is full of false information about GM crops and derived food.

The untrained observer (or scientist trained in another discipline) is unable to differentiate between the real science of GMOs and the prolific pseudo-science that is designed to scare, not educate. The July 25 column (Could GMO apple be hazard to your health?) from John Balatinecz (Ph.D in Forest Science) is an excellent example.

He begins with several blanket statements (genetic modification is poorly controlled, not fully understood, may cause rogue proteins which can be allergenic or toxic) designed to scare readers. The reality is, genetic engineering of crops is by far the most precise method we have ever used to breed new crops.

With conventional breeding (radiation or chemical mutagenesis or crosses), the DNA of the plant is changed in hundreds to thousands of places and completely random. Those changes are never analyzed or characterized. With GE crops, the exact DNA sequence of the change is known. Its exact location in the genome is known.

The exact effects (if any) on surrounding genes are known. The engineered protein is analyzed for allergenicity. Animal feeding studies ensure no toxic substances are generated in the new GE crop.

After three trillion meals containing food derived from GE crops, there has not been a single documented case of harm.

To suggest the testing procedures do not demonstrate “substantial equivalence” demonstrates a clear lack of knowledge in this area. I would ask any critic of GE crops, “What tests not already done would you like to see added, and why?”

I suspect Balatinecz will be surprised to learn there are many examples of horizontal gene transfer (movement of DNA between species) in the literature. The more science looks, the more it finds. It is most definitely a natural process.

In 1987, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences white paper on GE crops said:

“There is no evidence that unique hazards exist either in the use of rDNA techniques or in the movement of genes between unrelated organisms.”

Almost 30 years of research later, this prestigious science organization holds the same opinion.

Even the GMO skeptical European Commission agrees. The EC 2011 report, A Decade of EU-Funded GMO Research 2001-10, stated: “The main conclusion to be drawn from the efforts of more than 130 research projects, covering a period of more than 25 years of research, and involving more than 500 independent research groups, is that biotechnology, and in particular GMOs, are not per se more risky than conventional plant breeding technologies.”

The American Academy of Environmental Medicine is not mainstream science, but a fringe organization that advocates homeopathy (pure water as a treatment), chelation therapy, and a whole host of other unproven fringe treatments.

Their opinions do not reasonably counterbalance the American Medical Association statement: “The AMA recognizes the many potential benefits offered by genetically modified crops and foods, not support a moratorium on planting genetically modified crops, and encourages ongoing research developments in food biotechnology.”

The European Academies of Science Advisory Council 2013 report, Planting the Future (available online): “There is abundant and accumulating evidence from extensive worldwide experience for benefit, and lack of evidence for environmental or human health risk associated with GM crop technology. There is compelling evidence that GM crops can contribute to sustainable development goals with benefits to farmers, consumers, the environment and the economy.It is vital that sustainable agricultural production and food security harnesses the potential of biotechnology in all its facets.

Lastly, there is no such thing as “genetic pollution.”

DNA moves around nature all the time.

All apples have a mixture of DNA in their seeds. Apples are incapable of self-fertilization so the apple flower is always fertilized by pollen from different apple varieties or even species. The genes used in Arctic apples are in fact apple genes. Ballatinecz appears to suggest apple genes controlling apple genes in apples is dangerous.

That is pseudo-science nonsense.

Robert Wager,

Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo


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