The National Academies of Science has just released its long-awaited report “Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects.”
I was a reviewer on this report months ago and as far as I can tell it hasn’t changed much from when I sent in my comments. Here’s what I said:
In light of public polarization of opinion of GE foods, this report tries to do something quite difficult—to come to evidence-based opinions about the risks and benefits of these foods now and in the future. The report makes it clear that the committee listened carefully to a wide variety of opinions about risks and benefits and tried to make sense of the varying viewpoints based on available evidence. This was not easy, given the inadequacy of much of the evidence.
I give the report high marks for its neutral tone and cautious interpretations. The report clearly reveals how little is known about the effects of GE foods, how much GE is about crops fed to animals and how little is about food for people (except indirectly), and how minimally the promises of food biotechnology have been realized, except as they benefit large agricultural producers.
In trying to be fair, the committee will please nobody. Proponents will be distressed that the benefits are not more strongly celebrated. Critics will be upset that the report treats many of their concerns pejoratively (“activism”). Both sides will find plenty in the report to buttress their views. Th…