The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) is advising the Scottish Parliament’s Inquiry into the Health Impact of GM Crops that it believes GM Crop Trials should go ahead, so long as tests are strictly monitored. In a written submission to the Parliament’s, Health and Community Care Committee, which took evidence in public on Wednesday November 21, the RSE states that there is no scientifically proven evidence of any "threats of serious or irreversible damage" to public health from current GM Crops. The report was submitted to The Parliament’s Health and Community Care Committee following its call for written evidence on October 8. In its report the Society urges that only through proceeding cautiously with research and experimentation can risks be estimated, and asserts that to do nothing in the absence of substantiated risk would be wrong. The Society’s report emphasises that because there is uncertainty about the effects of long-term exposure, rigorous, scientifically robust surveillance must be applied to all trials. The "precautionary principle" should, it suggests be applied by advancing our understanding of GM Crops by continuing research with due care.
The RSE’s view has been formed from within its multidisciplinary Fellowship by experts in the field through careful consideration of the best internationally recognised research. All reputable globally available scientific evidence and regulatory approvals (since the mid1980s) have shown no impact or harm to public health. The practical experience of commercial-scale growing (200 million hectares over 7 years by 5.5 million farmers in 2001) also found no impact or harm to public health and nor has consumption of GM crop-derived foods. The Society’s report states that there could, in theory, be long-term effects on human health that have not yet been detected and that continued research and monitoring is essential to check the longer term situation.
It asserts that all of the GM crops which are currently grown commercially, have been exhaustively assessed for food safety by public health authorities worldwide. Organisations involved include the World Health Organisation, the OECD, EC, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, many National academies of Science, the United States Institute of Food Technologists and the Swiss Association for Research and Nutrition. The RSE’s submission notes that GM food/crop risk assessment procedures exceed those applied to any other crop technology, and says that these will no doubt be improved as more information becomes available. Protection of the health of the public and the environment should be paramount and at the same time, we have a duty to explore the benefits to humanity and the environment which GM can bring.
Giving evidence to the Health and Community Care Committee, Professor Tony Trewavas, a Fellow of the RSE and Professor in Plant Biochemistry at the Institute of Cell and Molecular Biology at The University of Edinburgh said:
Fellows of the Society working in this field continue to examine the best of international research into GM crops and human health, an area which has been studied extensively. Hard science worldwide and the practical experience of farmers around the globe provide no indication that GM crops have any harmful effect on human health. There is absolutely no room for complacency in developing new technologies, however, and it is extremely important that crop trials are conducted under strict controls and closely monitored. GM crops offer us great potential benefits in developing disease resistance, improved crop yield and in the diversity of produce we can grow. We should, I believe, adopt the "precautionary principle" and advance our understanding of GM crops safely and with scientific rigour for the benefit of our rural communities, consumers and the UK economy.
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Electronic & Hard copies of the RSE’s submission to the Scottish Parliament’s Inquiry into the Health Impact of GM Crops are available from the RSE by contacting:
Tel. +44 (0)131 240 5000; Dr Marc Rands, GM Crop Evidence, Department of Evidence & Advice, The Royal Society of Edinburgh, 22-26 George Street, Edinburgh EH2 2PQ