Methods for the safety assessment of biotech crops were developed through the cooperation of national and international authorities in the 1980s, and are continuously updated on the basis of intensive biosafety research. A significant number of peer-reviewed scientific research papers describing the results of biosafety research on biotech crops have been published. They confirm that genetically modified crops that have received approval are as safe as their conventional counterparts
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Regulatory authorities around the world have reviewed the commercial use of biotech crops according to well-established, internationally accepted standards of risk assessment. They have determined that biotech crops are as safe for human and animal health and for the environment as conventional crops.
Safety research on genetically modified crops started as soon as the first biotech plants of agricultural relevance were available. Governments and technology developers have invested heavily in understanding the behaviour of these crops as they grow in the field, and afterwards as they enter the food/feed chain. Today, this research continues to support the development of new biotech solutions for sustainable agriculture. The research community, at the request of governments, has set up international scientific bodies to support, direct and report these scientific safety assessment studies through the International Society for Biosafety Research.
Biotech crops have been grown and consumed for many years and people around the world have consumed billions of meals containing biotech derived foods or ingredients. There are no substantiated scientific reports of any food safety issues.
The release of biotech seeds to farmers and the introduction of the subsequent crops in the food chain are thoroughly regulated at the national and international levels based on principles established in 1986 in an OECD project on guidance to regulation and risk assessment of biotech crops. The OECD approach calls for case-by-case and scientifically based assessments of biotech projects during each stage of development, from the laboratory right through to small-scale field trials and eventually large-scale release via the hands of the grower. The text of the OECD guidelines has been significantly modified over the years. However the overall approach has proved reliable and has guided and supported the introduction of biotech crops (and indeed all genetically modified organisms) worldwide. An unbroken safety record reaching back almost twenty years demonstrates that the benefits of biotechnology can be realized, without unacceptable risk to human health or the environment.
As would be expected with the introduction of any new technology, experts around the world are systematically and comprehensively studying these new crop varieties, and continuously conducting additional research. Examples of research currently underway include studies on the use of antibiotic resistance genes as selectable markers; the potential for horizontal gene transfer (i.e. gene flow); the fate of transgenic DNA in soil; the impact of Bt genes on non-target insects; food allergenicity; etc. To date, the results are consistent with the outcome of the increasing body of evidence regarding risk assessments related to biotech crops which are as safe for human and animal health and for the environment as conventional crops. Biotech crops are at least as safe as conventional crops. As biotechnology develops new applications, more questions will surely be raised and will continue to be addressed by focused research.