Study: GMOs not behind health woes

LIHUE — Genetically modified food has been cleared of connections to health problems in a 388-page report released Tuesday from the National Academies of Science.

But, the report said GMO crops didn’t appear to increase yields, which means tinkering with genes in the food supply hasn’t translated to higher production.

A committee of agriculture and industry experts, scientists and researchers delivered the report.

It declares GMO foods have not caused increases in cancer, obesity, gastrointestinal illnesses, kidney disease, autism, or allergies. The finding was distilled from more than 900 studies and data from over the span of 20 years.

“For everyone who respects evidence, this report helps us better understand the purpose and wide-ranging benefits of genetically engineered crops,” said Bennette Misalucha, Executive Director, Hawaii Crop Improvement Association.

The report says with the line between engineered and natural foods blurring, thanks to newer techniques such as gene editing, regulators need to make their safety focus more on the end-product of the food that’s made rather than the nuts and bolts of how it’s made.

The report’s authors said labels aren’t needed for food safety reasons but could be justified for other reasons, much like made-in-America stickers.

Kauai Councilman Gary Hooser said on Hawaii, the debate isn’t about eating GMO foods, it’s more focused on the industrial farming practices involved in growing them.

“The high volume of restricted use pesticides necessary for the development and production of both parent seed and the experimental test fields too often drift into neighboring communities and sensitive ecosystems such as streams and nearshore waters,” Hooser said.

Jeri Di Pietro, president of Hawaii SEED, said the strategy is to increase education and awareness on genetically modified food in general.

“What makes them (genetically modified foods) unsafe is that it’s crossing unrelated species, and then secondly they shoot in the foreign DNA randomly,” Di Pietro said. “Depending on where that viral promoter of the foreign DNA lands, it can turn on dormant cancer genes.”

She said what she thinks happened in the National Academies of Sciences report is that the genes in those studies were hand-picked.

“They selectively pick a couple of proteins, say from a GMO and a non-GMO corn type, and they say ‘oh, these are the same and there’s no allergic affect,’” Di Pietro said.

Seed industry companies say the report is based in solid science.

“We applaud the massive effort that went into the National Academies’ report, which presents a thorough and objective data-based assessment,” said Misalucha. “We hope the findings will help the public see beyond the misinformation that still riddles discussion in our community.”

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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