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Saturday, 18 July 2015

Reported GMO Death in January 2015

This death was said to be due to the consumption of tomatoes containing fish genes which caused an allergic reaction - anaphylaxis. So, was it the GMO process? Could a non-GMO product containing undeclared fish protein to which Juan Pedro Ramos reacts have caused his death? On the other hand, could a label declaration showing the source of genes used have prevented Juan Pedro Ramos' death as does allergen declaration on non-GMO product labels? Other than this report, I am not aware of any substantial history of reported illness or deaths specifically due to GMOs. Does anyone know more and is willing to share? Legitimate sources of information are hard to find on both sides of this matter of GMOs.

Curbing GMO Emotionalism on All Sides:
On further examination of this case, evidence exists to demonstrate that GMO crops may very well save lives – Benefits of GMOs. One such crop has caused a death but what was the real problem that unfortunately caused Juan Pedro Ramos' death? Understanding that there were more than one player - the developer of the genetically modified tomato, the grower, the retailer and the consumer - who was most at fault and what was the fault? Are GMOs always deadly or are they always beneficial?
A July 13, 2015 article by Dr Nafeez Ahmed includes some arguments and counter arguments by different parties concerning the safety and benefits of GMOs. Anyone wishing to do further (balanced) investigation could look further into the studies by the various parties described by Dr. Ahmed in his article. A link to the article is posted below.

The conclusion from the Norwegian study leaves us with a crucial consideration: Not enough time has passed and not enough balanced and broad-scoped studies covering safety to humans, environmental safety, etc. have been done to date. As such, to make any absolute assertion about the safety or the dangers of GMOs appears to be irresponsible. 

The most balanced study group, in my opinion, would be free of biases. From the various groups listed by Dr. Ahmed, the world Health Organization appears to be the most unbiased.

It may appear impossible to assemble an unbiased study group. However, I believe that pulling well qualified scientists from all sides to work collaboratively is perhaps one way to effectively neutralize the typical biases that plague this subject. The group should consist of scientists with ties to the economic benefits derived from the commercialization of GMOs; scientists with avowed commitment to protecting the environment; scientist committed to the safety of food for humans; and scientists from academia who are only interested in seeing results of studies one way or another. I am not aware if such a study group already exists at the World Health Organization. The focus of the studies should also not be on validating the claims of any side. It should rather be on answering the key questions regarding GMOs through the scientific method and reliable (not biased) experimental design aimed at addressing each question investigated/studied.

The goal of course should be to make the world food supply safe, healthy, sufficient, accessible, affordable, without endangering the environment. This is for the benefit of us all.

In response to one of my connections on LinkedIn, I provided my opinion regarding each of his points of inquiry as follows:

“The Global approach to GMO”:
I would recommend strategies and practices that capitalize on the known benefits while minimizing or eliminating the known risks and regional inequalities among developed, developing and under developed regions

“The statutory and regulatory preparedness of most African Country's on GMO foods”:
In the absence of conclusive, non-biased, reliable and time-tested studies, no country is sufficiently prepared to enact more than cautionary statutes and regulations. Some countries in Europe, North America and elsewhere simply now have cautionary regulations that require “sufficient” studies done on proposed GMOs and clear label declarations. What is considered to be sufficient study is not well defined in many, if not all, instances.

“The myths linked to eating GMO foods”:
The myths present another case for conducting good scientific studies and clearly communicating valid and unbiased results to the public.

“Social and economic implications of adopting GM Crops”:
A case can be made for the plausible socio-economic benefits of GM crops. Such benefits have been catalogued, particularly by parties that stand to gain from an expanded production and acceptance of GM crops. Although propelled by the anticipated economic windfalls, some of the benefits described and demonstrated appear to be good for society. A reduction in the use of pesticides in farming could have some health benefits that may require further investigations in connection with the environmental protection implications.

“Reported cases of illnesses linked to GMOs”:
With the example of the reported case of allergic reaction and death in January 2015, published information about likely health issues linked to GMO are mostly projections, predictions or suspicions. These require further and specific studies by unbiased parties like the World Health Organization and its scientists. The World Health Organization advises that individual GM foods and their safety should be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Also, according to the World Health Organization, and generally speaking, 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. Clearly, this does not provide an absolute guarantee about the safety of GMOs. It only means that real life experiences of adverse effect on health have not been linked directly to GMOs. Read the WHO Frequently asked questions on genetically modified foods. 
The vigour (or rigour) of risk assessments conducted by the relevant authorities before authorization of GMO in the market”:
Regulatory or other authorities need to work with reputable non-biased scientific community in determining the best course of action with respect to the authorization and regulation of GMOs.

Additional Reading:
The July 13, 2015 article by Dr Nafeez Ahmed:

Posted By Felix Amiri
Felix Amiri is the current Food Sector Chair of GCSE-Food & Health Protection

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