News | April 6, 2017 | Read Time: 7 minutes
An Overview of the Safety and Advantages of GM Foods
Like you, Monsanto employees care about the food we buy at the store and feed to ourselves and our loved ones, and we are committed to developing products that contribute to safe and nutritious food choices. We place the highest priority on the safety of our products and conduct rigorous and comprehensive testing on each. In fact, seeds with GM traits have been tested more than any other crops in the history of agriculture – with no evidence of harm to humans or animals. In addition, governmental regulatory agencies, scientific organizations and leading health associations worldwide agree on the safety of GM crops.
As a seed company, Monsanto employees breed, grow and sell seeds to farmers around the world. Because many of the foods we eat and products we use every day begin as seeds, the safety of each of Monsanto’s seeds – whether GM or conventional – is a top priority to each of us.
After 30 years of research and assessments, the safety of GM crops is supported strongly by scientific evidence and the conclusions of the global scientific community. In fact, GM crops have been reviewed and tested more than any other crops in the history of agriculture and have been shown to be as safe as conventional crops. Following are three reasons why you can be confident in the safety of GM crops:
1. For each potential GM product, our research teams conduct years of field trials and comprehensive testing to be scientifically certain the new trait and genetic modification have not changed the safety of the crop.
From day one, our research teams prioritize product safety and would discontinue the development of any product that did not successfully pass each rigorous internal review and approval. For example, our researchers conduct numerous tests on the genetics, efficacy, nutritional characteristics, agronomic performance and environmental safety of each potential product. The researchers follow the requirements of scientific regulatory agencies and the guidelines of international agencies such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
Specifically for food safety, we compare and evaluate each of the key nutrients, as well as naturally occurring anti-nutrients and toxicants in the potential product to the conventional crop. We may compare the amount of protein, fat, ash, fiber, oil, carbohydrates, amino acids and fatty acids. Our researchers also conduct tests to ensure there are no new allergens.
In the “Products: Product Safety” section of this website, we provide the Safety Summaries and a list of peer-reviewed safety publications for our products if you are interested in learning more about their safety profiles..
2. Independent groups of scientists at regulatory agencies worldwide then review all of the data for each potential product and make their own scientific assessment of its food, feed and environmental safety.
Since GM crops were first commercialized in 1996 (1996-2014), regulatory agencies in over 60 countries have conducted extensive scientific reviews and confirmed the safety of GM crops with 3,083 approvals on 357 different GM traits in 27 crops.
We make submissions to the agencies in the countries where we want to be able to sell our product or where the crop is commonly imported. Regulatory agencies in each country must approve a potential product before seed can be sold to farmers or grain or other feeds can be imported for food and/or animal feed in their country. In the United States for example, depending on the product, three agencies may be involved in overseeing and approving GMO crops: the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The majority (1,458) of approvals on GMO crops have been on the food safety of the product. If you are interested in information on the regulatory approvals of GM traits, there are several online databases that provide this information including:
3. The science and safety behind genetic modification and other advanced breeding techniques are well-established and strongly supported by the scientific community.
Credible and independent public health societies and experts around the world also have reviewed the scientific evidence and determined food grown from GMO crops is safe to eat. The safety of GMO crops has been confirmed by numerous third-party organizations including the American Medical Association, the Society of Toxicology, the International Life Sciences Institute, the National Academy of Sciences in the United States, the Royal Society of the United Kingdom, the World Health Organization, the Institute of Food Technologists, the French Academy of Sciences, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the European Food Safety Authority and the European Union Commission.
In the 19 years since GMO crops were first commercialized (1996-2014), millions of farmers in nearly 30 countries worldwide have planted a total of more than 1.8 billion hectares (more than 4 billion acres) – with no evidence of harm to humans or animals.
Since safety was first demonstrated and farmers began growing GMO crops, there has not been one substantiated instance of illness associated with GMO crops. Additionally, billions of animals have been fed diets that are predominantly made up of GMO crops, and there is no evidence of adverse effects on animal health or productivity.
The science behind genetic modification and advanced breeding techniques is well-established and taught in primary schools, high schools and core curriculums at leading universities across the world.
For thousands of years, farmers have altered the genetics of the crops we eat by selecting and replanting seeds from the plants that exhibited desirable traits, such as larger seeds or sweeter fruits. It wasn’t until the mid-1800s that Gregor Mendel and other researchers discovered and began to understand genetics – the science behind the art of plant breeding, which is taught in primary school science classes today.
In the 1950s, the scientific community’s understanding of genetics continued to expand with James Watson’s and Francis Crick’s discovery of the double helix structure of DNA, which earned them the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962. By the late 1970s, researchers – including Dr. Mary-Dell Chilton and Dr. Robb Fraley, who were awarded the 2013 World Food Prize for their contributions to agriculture – had gained the ability to isolate genes, and they discovered how to use recombinant DNA technology to transfer a gene for a desired trait into a plant..
By the 1980s, research in the life sciences and biotechnology was flourishing, and universities began implementing changes to improve instruction and expand research in biological science-based programs. This focus among universities led to a solid scientific understanding of the science and safety of genetic modification. It also led to further scientific discoveries in, and the use of, genomics, molecular markers and marker-assisted breeding in plant breeding programs worldwide.
In addition, researchers at public and private institutions began testing GM crops, and they published hundreds of studies on the safety of biotechnology. If you are interested in learning more, we provide a list of peer-reviewed safety publications in the “Products: Product Safety” section of this website. Additional research also can be found through several online databases including:
- Center for Environmental Risk Assessment (CERA) GM Crop Database
- CERA Bibliography Database
- AgBioForum, The Journal of Agrobiotechnology Management and Economics
- Crop Life International (CLI) Database of the Benefits and Safety of Biotechnology