Prof David Schubert points out that there is no scientific consensus that GMOs are safe and that many animal feeding studies show toxicity from GM crops

There's been plenty of kickback against the pro-GMO article in the New York Times by Amy Harmon, "A Lonely Quest for Facts on Genetically Modified Crops".  

In her article, Harmon criticises the ban on growing new GMOs on Hawaii's Big Island. Harmon appears to have homed in on one Council member who didn't agree with the ban and used him as the authority to attack it.

Harmon's article contains a number of myths, including the claim that there is a "global scientific consensus" that GMOs are safe. It's hard to believe that Harmon wasn't aware of the public statement, "No scientific consensus on GMO safety" which has now been signed by nearly 300 well qualified scientists:

Published responses to Harmon's article in the NYT's letters page (below) include one from Prof David Schubert of the Salk Institute, who points to the lack of mandatory safety testing of GMOs in the US.


GMO foods and the trust issue
New York Times, January 9, 2014
The Opinion Pages|Letters

To the Editor:

Re “On Hawaii, a Lonely Quest for Fact” (front page, Jan. 5):

Your article about genetically modified crops says that there is a “global scientific consensus” that they are safe, and suggests that opponents are driven by emotion, not fact.

As a medical research scientist, I disagree that there is any such consensus, and there is no evidence that any genetically modified product is safe. There is no required safety testing, no epidemiological study relating consumption to health.

Although the industry aggressively tries to discredit all studies showing potential harm, there are many showing toxicity in animals that predict serious medical consequences in humans from long-term exposure. Finally, contrary to industry claims, genetically modified crops have produced no increase in yield, have elevated the use of herbicides tenfold, and have resulted in no social or economic benefit except for the reduction of factory farm labor costs.

The public has every right to distrust what it is told about genetically modified food safety.

DAVID SCHUBERT                                                                                                                 La Jolla, Calif., Jan. 6, 2014

The writer is a professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.


To the Editor:

Your article about the Hawaii councilman and his “lonely quest” for facts about genetically modified crops ignores the most fundamental problem associated with GMOs: In most cases they are used to prop up an inherently fragile and profoundly destructive agricultural model that we ought to be figuring out how to replace.

Most of the problems that GMOs “solve” are the inevitable consequence of industrial monoculture: a single species and often a single genome planted acre upon acre and sometimes county upon county.

There is a whole world of research, some of it mainstream, some of it small-scale and informal, on ways to grow diverse crops and raise livestock in ways that compromise little in the way of yields but that create natural barriers against disease, while building the soil instead of degrading it.

Although many GMO opponents have taken the bait, it’s in the interest of the companies and endowed institutions that promote GMOs to let this issue degrade into a narrow debate about whether particular GMO crops cause health problems in those who consume them. That’s an important question that shouldn’t be ignored, but it’s a side issue.

DAVID RUBENSTEIN                                                                                                    Minneapolis, Jan. 6, 2014


To the Editor:

As the parent of a child with a complex array of allergies, I rely on accurate and comprehensive labeling every time I shop. Unfortunately “trust us” is not good enough when it comes to undocumented food sources — not to mention how the practice of not labeling GMO foods frustrates the responsibility we have for our children.

The article leaves many questions unanswered: What regulations exist on GMO foods? What proofs are required, in the name of public safety, before GMO products go to market? Why should we ease the burden of proof from companies that make GMO products? Why are citizens being denied their right to information about what they eat?

Scientific consensus has a long history of U-turns. For now I say no to anonymous GMOs. Let the public decide.

DAVID LINCOLN                                                                                                              Brooklyn, Jan. 6, 2014