February 15, 2011

GMO Column Lacks Facts

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To the Editor:

Re: “Rejecting Genetically Modified Foods,” Opinion, Feb. 15

The recent column “Rejecting Genetically Modified Foods” provides a poor argument against genetically modified (GM) crops as the author attempts to argue against them on factual, not philosophical, grounds, but ultimately doesn’t provide any facts. The author’s opposition to GM food boils down to a 2009 study, which she fails to properly cite and an allusion to Food, Inc. without any discussion of what that film might contain in support of her argument (therefore I assume it contributes nothing). I took the time to find the relevant journal article and to read over it. There are several cautionary points to consider. First, the diets consumed by the lab rates consisted of either 11 percent or 33 percent GM maize, so they were consuming a lot of the particular variety of GM corn. Second, the discussion opens by acknowledging the difference between a sign (symptom) of toxicity and proof of toxicity, then states, “the statistically significant effects observed here for all three GM maize varieties investigated are signs of toxicity rather than proofs of toxicity.” Third, perhaps most importantly, the conclusion of the paper asserts “Patho-physiological profiles are unique for each GM crop/food, underlining the necessity for a case-by-case evaluation of their safety, as is largely admitted and agreed by regulators. It is not possible to make comments concerning any general, similar subchronic toxic effect for all GM foods.” I would say that the paper in question provides evidence that some foods may have a negative and damaging physiological impact, but that this study is all but unrelated to GM crops as a whole, and certainly does not in any way support the author’s opening paragraph attempt to connect GM foods and toxic chemicals in the mind of the reader.

The only insight into the author’s basis for her opposition into GM crops comes from her approval of “golden rice,” the vitamin-fortified rice and disapproval of “Roundup Ready” alfalfa. If, as I suspect, her opposition is less to GM crops on the basis that they are physiologically harmful and rooted more in her dislike of Monsanto’s business model and practices and lack of proper labeling of GM foods versus traditional crops, then I would encourage her to write a column with that as its subject.

Mark Fuller, graduate student, mechanical and aerospace engineering