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Are GMOs Safe?/What Is Cooperative Extension and NCSU’s Position on the Use of GMO’s in Regards to Safety?

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There is no way to prove anything is 100% safe. This article provides a good discussion of that. There have been cases where classical or traditional plant breeding has resulted unforeseen dangerous or unhealthy products. An example would be the Lenape potato. The Lenape potato was the result of a collaboration between Penn State University and the Wise Potato Chip Company. Although the Lenape potato had many desirable traits it unfortunately also had higher levels of solanine, which is harmful to humans. Unintended effects of conventional breeding and genetic engineering for both plants and animals are discussed here.

Any method of plant breeding, conventional or GMO, could potentially introduce DNA that would result in an unforeseen change that might be harmful to humans. The possibility of introducing a harmful change into a food crop is less with GMOs than traditional breeding for three reasons. First, GMOs are created by very minute changes to the plant DNA compared to conventional breeding methods such as selective breeding or mutation breeding. Secondly, the changes made to the DNA and what proteins the changes in DNA code for are known to the scientist. Therefore, the protein can be tested for toxicity and allergenicity. Lastly, varieties developed with genetic engineering are required to go through the regulatory process unlike varieties produced with selective breeding or mutation breeding.

I know of no mechanism that NCSU or Cooperative Extension has for taking a position on any broad subject. Many scientific societies have taken a position on the safety of GMO foods and agree that they are no more risky than conventionally bred crops. The views of many major scientific and professional societies on evaluation of genetically engineered crops are available here. Below is a quote from the European Commision report: A decade of EU-funded GMO research (2001 – 2010).

“The main conclusion to be drawn from the efforts of more than 130 research projects, covering a period of more than 25 years of research, and involving more than 500 independent research groups, is that biotechnology, and in particular GMOs, are not per se more risky than e.g. conventional plant breeding technologies.”

Keith Edmisten
Professor of Crop Science