Biotech seed companies and front groups are using their substantial resources to broadcast the myth of a "scientific consensus" on the safety of GMOs – by misrepresenting the views of scientific organisations

Fed up with hearing that a whole host of scientific organisations worldwide agree that GMOs are safe? A useful and timely report by Food & Water Watch picks apart the hype and discovers a very different story.
This manageably short report is well worth reading in full.

The so-called scientific "consensus": Why the debate on GMO safety is not over

Food & Water Watch, Sept 2014
[Excerpts extracted by GMWatch]

Biotechnology seed companies, aided by advocates from academia and the blogosphere, are using their substantial resources to broadcast the myth of a "scientific consensus" on the safety of genetically engineered crops (hereafter GMOs), asserting that the data is in and the debate is over. This public relations campaign, helped along by industry front groups, has caught the attention of some of the most visible news outlets in the country, with biotech advocates portraying GMO critics as akin to climate change deniers, out of step with science.

However, unlike climate change, a subject on which climate scientists almost universally agree, there is no general agreement on GMO safety….

The GMO-consensus campaign is misrepresenting the views of a variety of scientific organizations by cherry-picking and editing quotes, taking statements out of context and incorrectly attributing the opinions of individuals to scientific bodies that they do not represent…

The GMO-consensus campaign asserts the Royal Society of Medicine supports the “consensus” based on a single, cherry-picked quote from a review article that happened to be published in a journal run by the Society, but which does not reflect the official thinking or position of the organization. This article no more represents the views of the Royal Society of Medicine than does the response letter that the journal published, which criticized the article for factual inaccuracy and a lack of supporting data.

Meanwhile, the Royal Society of London is said to be part of the “consensus” based on excerpted text from a newspaper article about the Royal Society, not a quote or policy position from the Society itself. Notably, this article actually focused on the Society’s decision to call for stricter safety testing of GMOs, asking for more detailed guidelines to assess whether genetically engineered crops may “lead to unpredicted harmful changes in the nutritional status of foods”.

Biotech advocates cite the National Academies of Science (NAS) as part of the “consensus,” quoting the organization as saying, “To date more than 98 million acres of genetically modified crops have been grown worldwide. No evidence of human health problems associated with the ingestion of these crops or resulting products have been identified,” but failing to add the rest of the quote, which dramatically changes the meaning: “but concerns have been raised about the potential for transgenic food products to cause allergic reactions or produce toxic compounds. In addition, concrete information on the effects of transgenic plants on the environment and on biological diversity is still sparse.”

The NAS has no official position on the safety of GMOs and, in fact, initiated a new study of GMOs in 2014 to investigate, among other things, safety issues, clearly indicating that the debate on safety is not over…

The NAS has also explicitly called for post-market surveillance and epidemiological studies, which would be needed to document possible adverse health effects associated with certain GMOs…

Pro-GMO activists point to “seven of the world’s academies of sciences” as part of the “consensus” based on a cherry-picked quote from a report that is nearly 15 years old. That report, authored in part by the NAS and the Royal Society of London, does not state or conclude that GMOs are safe, and explicitly notes “the possibility of long-term adverse effects” on human health, the “virtual absence of data” on the risks of GMO gene flow and that GMOs’ “actual effects on the environment and on biological diversity is still very sparse”.

The report explicitly noted that there was “no consensus” on environmental impacts of GMOs.