Europe has a confusing relationship with Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). EU Member States are allowed to restrict or prohibit the sale of GMOs, and some countries have outright banned the production of GMO crops on their territory. However, other countries (notably Spain) have embraced GMOs wholeheartedly.
A Eurobarometer opinion poll carried out in 2010 found that 59% of Europeans believe that GM food is not safe for their health and that of their family. An even larger majority (70%) say that genetically modifying foods is “fundamentally unnatural”, and 61% say that GMOs make them “feel uneasy”.
Are they safe? On its website, the World Health Organisation (WHO) identifies three potential public health risks from GM foods:
The potential to provoke allergic reactions (“allergenicity”)
The possibility that genes could be transferred from food into cells in the body or to bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract (“gene transfer”). In other words, whilst eating a chicken won’t turn you into a chicken, might there be a risk that individual genes will be incorporated?
- The unintended release and mixing (“outcrossing”) of genes from GM plants into non-GM crops or wild plants.
The WHO points out that GM foods are all tested for allergenicity (whilst most foods developed through traditional methods are not), and that “no allergic effects have been found relative to GM foods currently on the market“. In terms of gene transfer, the WHO doesn’t dismiss the possibility completely, but advises that the probability of transfer is low. The WHO concludes that:
GM foods currently available on the international market have passed risk assessments and are not likely to present risks for human health. In addition, no effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved.
What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in by Michael arguing that GMOs should be banned across Europe because they are dangerous to consumers. Is he right? Or is he just making claims which aren’t supported by scientific evidence?
Should GMOs be banned across Europe? We asked Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from all sides of the political spectrum to stake out their positions on this question, and it’s up to YOU to vote for the policies you favour. See what the different MEPs have to say, then vote at the bottom of this debate for the one you most agree with! Take part in the vote below and tell us who you support in the European Parliament!
Definitely, yes. Basically, I think introducing foreign genetic materials has unpredictable consequences, and once the mutant genes are out of the bag, there’s no going back. It’s a huge threat to bio-diversity, and we know that GMO contamination of conventional and organic food is increasing. GMOs actually do not increase the crop yield, and GMO producers are hiding GMOs in animal feed, despite animal feeding tests have shown that GMO foods have a toxic affect.
The health consequences of eating Genetically Modified Organisms on the human body are largely unknown. And GMOs require massive amounts of pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides. Actually, GMO crops increase pesticide use, and these substances are highly poisonous, carconogenic, and genotoxic, and should not be eaten or allowed near the water supply, which is now a danger because of the flow of water from agriculture into the ground water. I think it’s very, very dangerous and it’s a bad game for our population.
No, of course not.
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