How We Establish the Safety of GM Crops: Testing at Monsanto

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How We Establish the Safety of GM Crops: Testing at Monsanto

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Genetically modified seeds (i.e., those improved through biotechnology) undergo more testing and oversight before commercialization than any other agricultural products, including conventional (or non-biotech) crops.

We at Monsanto have more than 500 scientists who conduct more than 75 different product safety studies and communicate the results to regulatory authorities and the public around the world. On average, for Monsanto alone, each GMO product takes 13 years and costs $130 million for research, development and governmental regulatory approval. 

From the earliest phases of discovery, Monsanto thoroughly tests all GM crops for safety, including environmental to food safety. After commercialization and ultimately through discontinuation, we continue to assure the safety and integrity of our products with monitoring and product stewardship initiatives.

  • Before a gene is used to improve a GM crop, the expected protein or RNA is assessed for food/feed safety, such as confirming the protein is not allergenic or toxic.
  • The gene is inserted into thousands of different varieties of the crop of interest. From those thousands of plants, many tests help to select one that has the best chance to help farmers. This one is advanced for further development and safety testing for regulatory review.
  • The selected GM crop is fully characterized to demonstrate that it is as safe as its non-GM counterpart, and this data is carefully reviewed by regulators around the world before they approve that the new product may be sold to farmers for cultivation or that the grain from that crop may be imported.
    • To ensure that food and feed from GM crops are as safe and nutritious as those from conventional varieties, Monsanto scientists analyze protein, carbohydrates, fat, amino acids, fiber fractions, vitamins, and other components.
    • In addition to demonstrating that each new GM crop is nutritionally equivalent to its conventional counterpart, we generate additional assurances through studies on biological systems in the body.
    • Field testing is performed to verify that the plant is safe for the environment. To ensure that the plant is as safe as conventional varieties and that it will not become a weed of agriculture or have adverse environmental effects, growth, development, interactions with insects, diseases and other stresses, and the potential for affecting non-target organisms (like honey bees) are analyzed.
  • The guidelines for establishing safety that are followed by Monsanto and recognized by regulatory authorities globally, were developed over many years by international experts, like the Codex Alimentarius Commission,  the Organization for Economic Development, and global regulatory authorities over many years. 

Standard product safety summaries that compile the safety data generated for each of Monsanto’s GM crop products can be found here.

GM crops must be tested in this manner to establish they are just as safe as conventional crops and foods. The emphasis on testing started about 25 years ago when the science of genetic engineering was first being applied in agriculture and experience with biotechnology in plants was first developing. Today, after more than 30 regulatory agencies in more than 60 countries have independently concluded over 3800 times for a wide range of GM crops that they are safe, it is reassuring to know that more than 20 years of cultivation of GM crops has produced foods/feeds to nourish a hungry and growing world population.

Only after Monsanto has met internal safety testing requirements, using internationally recognized methods, is the GM crop submitted to global regulatory authorities for their review.