Genetic modification.

Crops.

Genetically modified foods are neither safe nor necessary. Agriculture in the USA, which is mostly GM, has lower yields and higher pesticide use than European agriculture, which is mostly non-GM.

Just three crops, wheat, rice and maize, provide humanity with most of our calories and protein. Their present yield is about twice what seems to be needed to solve current and future food problems.

Future climates are likely to be uncertain. Rather than aiming for maximum yields, farmers should aim for production systems that can cope with uncertainty.

Scientific opinions about the environmental and health risks of GM crops tend to be influenced by the training and funding of the scientists. For example, by whether their expertise is in molecular biology or ecology, or whether their support is from industrial or public funding.

GM foods are not labelled in North America, so it is difficult to study their impacts. The notification procedure before market release of GM crops should be made mandatory. The default expectation should be that the introduction of a new gene will cause unpredictable changes.

Sources:

“So Shall We Reap”, Colin Tudge, Allen Lane 2003.

The European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility, October 2013,
http://www.ensser.org/increasing-public-information/no-scientific-consensus-on-gmo-safety/

GMO myths and truths, May 2014,
earthopensource.org/earth-open-source-reports/gmo-myths-and-truths-2nd-edition.

Human embryos.

Statement on NIH funding of research using gene-editing technologies in human embryos.
https://www.nih.gov/about-nih/who-we-are/nih-director/statements/statement-nih-funding-research-using-gene-editing-technologies-human-embryos

. . . NIH will not fund any use of gene-editing technologies in human embryos. The concept of altering the human germline in embryos for clinical purposes has been debated over many years from many different perspectives, and has been viewed almost universally as a line that should not be crossed. Advances in technology have given us an elegant new way of carrying out genome editing, but the strong arguments against engaging in this activity remain. These include the serious and unquantifiable safety issues, ethical issues presented by altering the germline in a way that affects the next generation without their consent, and a current lack of compelling medical applications justifying the use of CRISPR/Cas9 in embryos.

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.
Director, National Institutes of Health
28 April 2015.