Ban On GM Crops In Europe Should Be Rethought, Says Royal Society

539 Ban On GM Crops In Europe Should Be Rethought, Says Royal Society
There is plenty of confusion surrounding GM crops, which the Royal Society hopes to help clear up a little. science photo/Shutterstock

The effective ban on growing genetically modified (GM) crops for human consumption in Europe needs to be reassessed, the UK-based Royal Society has announced. Issuing a guide to the topic by a panel of six expert plant scientists, the organization has set out to answer many of the most common, and most misunderstood, questions relating to the subject. They conclude that there is no evidence that GM crops are unsafe or unhealthy to eat, or that they adversely affect the environment any more than conventionally bred crops.

While GM crops are grown in some parts of Europe, notably in countries like Spain, there has been an effective ban on producing them for human consumption, and they are mainly used for animal feed and cotton. As if that wasn't enough, over half of the European Union member states have offically banned growing them, including France, Germany, and Scotland. 


The Royal Society, which describes itself as an independent scientific body, has said that there needs to be more informed debate about the subject, and that the record should be set straight about the technology.

“GM is a contentious subject and not all public discussion has been informed by independent scientific evidence,” writes the President of the Royal Society, Venki Ramakrishnan, in an introduction to the guide. “This discussion has taken place against a backdrop of the debate about how we ensure that we have sufficient food, grown in as sustainable a way as possible, to feed the world's growing population. Our goal with this project is to present the scientific evidence in an accessible way.”

To help achieve this, the organization has produced the guide to answer many of the questions surrounding the subject, from “Is it safe to eat GM crops?” to “How are GM crops regulated?” Answered by experts in the field, its aim is to give an impartial and scientific response to the issues, steering clear of the non-scientific aspects such as the broader socio-economic issues, including trust in businesses and politics.

The report comes to similar conclusions as another issued last week by the National Academy of Science, Engineering, and Medicine in the US, which found that the crops were safe to eat, and were no more harmful to the environment that conventionally bred crops. They too criticized the sweeping generalizations made about the technology, something which Ramakrishnan also touches upon.


“In general, it is important to recognize that when the GM method is used the crops produced should be assessed on a case by case basis,” Ramakrishnan stated. “GM is a method, not a product in itself. Different GM crops have different characteristics and it is impossible, from a scientific point of view, to make a blanket statement that all GM is good or bad.”

There has still, however, been some criticism aimed at the Royal Society for its report, with claims by the Soil Association that not a single scientist who has “consistently expressed skepticism” about GM was involved. Ramakrishnan acknowledges that the publication is not going to settle the debate, and that there are some real concerns about large multinational corporations monopolizing food production, but he hopes that the guide will help inform the public better about the hard science behind the technology.  


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