GMOs Have NOT Been Proven Safe

GMOs Not Proven SafeThe resounding claim of Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) proponents is that GMOs have been proven safe. Some scientists are quite emphatic about this, such as Dr. Pamela Ronald from UC Davis, who says:

“Genetically engineered crops currently on the market are as safe to eat and safe for the environment as organic or conventional foods.”

Dr. Roger Clemens, from the USC Department of Pharmacology, also weighs in saying:

“They’re tested and evaluated in voluminous documentation that would fill this backyard. We don’t know of any health risk at this particular time.”

Dr. Clemons also supports food additives, sugar, and processed foods, but I digress….

The problem with concluding that GMOs are safe is that the argument for their safety rests solely on animal studies. These studies are offered as evidence that the debate over GMOs is over. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Animal studies have value in that if something demonstrates harm in animals, it will also likely cause harm in humans. Although some animal studies have found harm from a GMO diet, these hotly debated studies are not the point of this article. The point is, if an animal study does not find harm with a particular substance, it may still cause harm in humans.

A good example of this is what’s happened with artificial sweeteners. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved artificial sweeteners for use using animal toxicology studies. Once these sweeteners were added to the food supply–and labeled as such–scientists were able to do epidemiological studies (also called observational studies) in humans. Several of these studies found that artificial sweeteners are linked with negative health effects.

Considering that biology, gene regulation and expression, and the impact of a substance on a particular gene can vary so much, it makes perfect sense that animal research is not the best model to determine the long-term health effects of GMOs in humans.

The Framingham Observational Study found that both diet and regular sodas are associated with metabolic syndrome (a constellation of symptoms such as abdominal obesity, high blood sugar, elevated triglycerides, and high blood pressure that are linked to an increased risk of heart disease). Yet another study revealed that diet sodas may increase the risk of diabetes. The Nurses’ Health Study found that two or more diet sodas a day were associated with a 30 percent decrease in kidney function over time. Yet none of these results were found in animal studies. Clearly, there are still many unknowns about the impact of artificial sweeteners on human health.

Dr. Walter Willet, from the Harvard School of Public Health, sums things up nicely by saying: “It’s difficult to make blanket statements about the safety or risks of low-calorie sweeteners because all are very different in their structure and how they work in the body. The reality is, some studies have been done in animals, but we really don’t have good long-term data on humans with any of these.” And the same is true for GMOs.

Considering that biology, gene regulation and expression, and the impact of a substance on a particular gene can vary so much, it makes perfect sense that animal research is not the best model to determine the long-term health effects of GMOs in humans.

carole bartolotto[/dc]I[/dc]n fact, Dr. Ralph Heywood, past scientific director of the Huntington Research Centre (U.K.), found that the agreement between animal and human toxicology tests is below 25 percent. He has determined that there is no way of knowing what kind of toxic effect will show up in animals versus humans.

Instead of animal studies, epidemiological studies have been identified as the best wayto verify the effects of a substance and its risk to humans.

Ultimately, we need GMO labeling so we can do the epidemiological studies that are essential to determine their risk. Without long-term data–in humans–no one can make the claim that GMOs are proven safe.

Carole Bartolotto
Healthy Eating Rocks!


  1. Lauren Steiner says

    I don’t trust anything Monsanto says. They are an evil corporation. But there is a difference between pesticides that are designed to kill things and combining genes in food. I get that you can’t extrapolate from animal studies. But what I’m reading for the first time is that there are no studies in humans either directly or from epidemiologically. So people are just assuming they are bad because Monsanto makes them? Is that correct?

  2. says

    Hello Carole,
    I always appreciate articles about the uncertainties of GMOs. I worked for the Organic Consumers Association during their campaign to label GMOs in California. Unsuccessful unfortunately.

    However, I think a point that not many people are aware of, is Monsanto’s track record for telling the truth about their products.
    They have lied about Dioxin, Agent Orange, DDT etc etc. Each time they assured us that the products were tested and safe. Each time they were wrong. In a sane world they wouldn’t even be allowed to be in business anymore.
    That fact alone, whether they lied or are just incompetent, should give any one reason to avoid GMOs.
    Sure, the final results are not in, but the results are in from many of their past products are they give any sane person a good reason to STAY AWAY from anything they offer.
    I think that is what people really need to hear.

    Thanks for your time and work.

    Mike Brown

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