Science in Society Archive

GM Food Nightmare Unfolding in the Regulatory Sham

Regulator agencies like the European Food Safety Authority and the UK Food Standards Agency have been ignoring the precautionary principle, manipulating and corrupting science, sidestepping the law, and helping to promote GMOs in the face of massive public opposition and damning evidence piling up against the safety of GM food and feed

These charges are made in a devastating report [1] ( GM Food Nightmare Unfolding and the Regulatory Sham ) released today by the Institute of Science in Society*. The report has been submitted to the European Food Standards Agency, the World Health Organisation/ Food and Agriculture Organisation Expert Consultation on GM Food Animals, and the UK Food Standards Agency, and it has been accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

The 19-page report contains more than 130 references. It draws together evidence from all over the world indicating that GM fo od and feed may be inherently hazardous to health, regardless of the plant species or the genetic modification involved. For example,

  • Female rats fed Roundup Ready soybeans gave birth to many severely stunted pups, with over half of the litter dead by three weeks, and the surviving pups were sterile; Roundup Ready soya has been approved worldwide for food and feed since 1996
  • Farmers and workers exposed to Bt cotton and Bt maize have suffered serious allergy-like symptoms
  • Livestock feeding on Bt crops and crop residues became ill and died in large numbers

“The evidence has stacked up to such an extent that our regulators should be answering a charge of criminal negligence at the very least in failing to ban GM crop and continuing with their campaign of denial and disinformation, and worse, helping to promote even more dangerous GM produce from the industry,” said Dr. Mae-Wan Ho. Dr Ho is the director of I-SIS and lead author of the report co-authored with Joe Cummins , e meritus Professor of Biology at the University of Western Ontario, Canada, and Peter Saunders, emeritus Professor of Mathematics at King's College, London University.

That Bt toxins can cause serious immune reactions was known long before they were widely incorporated into maize and cotton crops. Similarly, evidence that pieces of genetically modified (GM) DNA can be taken up and incorporated into the genomes of other cells – a process called horizontal gene transfer - has been steadily accumulating since the mid 1990s, when the I-SIS scientists first sounded their warning to the regulators.

“GM DNAs often contain antibiotic resistance marker genes and other genes from bacteria and viruses that cause diseases. In addition, they have strong control signals - ‘promoters' - that force the cell to express a foreign gene at high levels,” Dr. Mae-Wan Ho explains. “As a result, horizontal gene transfer not only spreads antibiotic resistance genes to harmful bacteria, it can create new bacteria and viruses that can cause epidemics. And if the strong promoter jumps into the wrong place in the genome of animal cells, it can boost the expression of oncogenes and cause the cells to multiply out of control, or cancer by another name.”

Europe and the UK are required by law to abide by the precautionary principle. Both have signed up to the Cartegena Protocol on Biosafety regulating GMOs, and a string of other international treaties for protecting health and the environment based on the precautionary principle. But systematic manipulation of scientific evidence and abuse of science by the regulatory authorities has meant that the precautionary principle is never invoked.

“GM food/feed looks like joining asbestos, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), BSE, tobacco and many others as yet another example of the government relying on bad scientific advice and ignoring the precautionary principle, with devastating consequences,” said Prof. Peter Saunders.

In three recent cases, American courts have ruled that the US Department of Agriculture failed to carry out proper environmental impact assessment before giving approval for releases of GM crops to the environment, and that the releases are therefore illegal.

“Regulation of genetically modified food crops in North America is a complete sham. It's time for a shake up. The regulatory agencies must represent the law and the people not just corporate interests,” said Prof. Joe Cummins

For further information:

*The Institute of Science in Society is a UK London-based not-for-profit organisation dedicated to providing critical public information on cutting edge science, and to promoting social accountability and ecological sustainability in science.

Article first published 09/03/07


  1. Ho MW, Cummins J and Saunders PT. GM Food Nightmare Unfolding in the Regulatory Sham, I-SIS Report, March 2007.

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