GM Foods: Promise or Peril?

In Uncategorized by Tracy C. Miller7 Comments

Canadian consumers can now buy genetically modified (GM) salmon, which grows twice as fast as non-GM salmon and uses less feed.

Genetic modification has produced crops that are resistant to insects, diseases, and drought, are more nutritious and can grow more quickly. The result is more abundant harvests and lower-priced food.

Nevertheless, environmental groups, such as Greenpeace, oppose planting GM seeds.

Although GM foods do raise legitimate concerns, they can play an important role in alleviating hunger and malnutrition and thus should be permitted and encouraged in developing countries.

Environmental groups argue that GM foods have not been around long enough for us to know what harmful effects they might have on humans. They point to recent research showing adverse health effects of feeding GM foods to rats. They contend that as more farmers use GM seeds, the result is widespread cultivation of a single crop variety and overuse of herbicides, which discourages crop rotation and other environmentally sustainable practices.

Spores from GM seeds can spread and affect the crops of neighboring farmers. Some environmental groups have claimed that seed companies have pursued and won patent infringement lawsuits against farmers whose fields have been inadvertently pollinated by GM crops from neighbors’ land. This is a myth, according to an NPR report. Monsanto, a leading biotech firm, has pursued patent infringement lawsuits, but only against farmers who they claim deliberately planted GM seeds.

Adverse health effects, such as tumors in rats, are the result of feeding them “inordinately high amounts” of GM food over “unrealistic periods of time.” Americans have been consuming GM foods for twenty years, and no harmful health effects have been demonstrated in peer-reviewed research. Though consumers in the EU generally avoid food labeled as containing GM ingredients, the European Commission has recently concluded based on the results of numerous studies conducted over a 25-year period that genetic modification technologies are not riskier than conventional plant breeding technologies.

In some environments, genetic modification makes it possible to expand food production and improve nutrition. An example of this is genetically modified sweet potatoes, which are larger and contain more vitamin A than sweet potatoes that have traditionally been grown in sub-Saharan Africa. If they became more widely available, they have the potential to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of African children who die from vitamin A deficiency.

Adopting GM crops could have significant impacts on human health in many parts of Africa. Delays in doing so have contributed to malnutrition, stunted growth, and lives lost. Hundreds, if not thousands of lives could have been saved if Kenya had adopted genetically engineered corn in 2006 and Uganda had adopted the black sigatoka resistant banana in 2007. If the Nigerian government delays approving the insect-resistant Bt cowpea for one year, between 100 and 3000 lives could be lost.

Organizations, such as HarvestPlus have been promoting a process called biofortification to develop more nutritious food varieties. It breeds, tests, and distributes seeds that have more of the micronutrients that are most limited in the diets of the poor- vitamin A, zinc, and iron.

Genetically modified seeds do raise some concerns about threats to local seed supplies from pollination of neighboring fields. This might justify strengthening laws that protect the property rights of farmers who prefer not to have their fields invaded by GM seeds. Nevertheless, it does not seem difficult for organic farmers with neighbors who grow GM crops to keep contamination of their crops to a very low level. Producers of those seeds, such as Monsanto, have indicated a willingness to pay to remove GM plants from fields where they do not belong.

Consumers in rich countries can afford to be choosy about what they eat. Some prefer spending more for organic food that has not been genetically modified. Genetic modification, however, can lower costs and improve the nutritional value of food, which could play a major role in improving the health and life expectancy of the poor in developing countries.

This article was originally published on

Tracy Miller, Ph.D., is an economist, Senior Policy Research Editor at the Mercatus Center, George Mason University, and a Senior Fellow of The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.



    Oh my God. It’s like you’ve suddenly become a climate alarmist when it comes to ignoring the science. You aren’t the first to do this as Heritage tried to go down this path a couple years ago.

    There is probably more, overwhelming support that GMO’s – especially those using glysophate – are directly responsible for the dramatic increase of chronic disease. MIT and Purdue the past two years especially have studied the effects on massive decimation of gut bacteria (where we have our “second brain”) and directly linked it to dozens of diseases.

    The plethora of anecdotal testimonies of children’s recovery from dire health problems once removed from GMO foods should be enough to at least temper your great enthusiasm.

    Also – the single Russian study citing over feeding of rats has not only been reinstated by the medical journal it was once discounted in – the study has been repeated numerous times in the past 3 years showing similar consequences.

    I don’t know what it is that climate alarmists sites like Organic Consumers Associations decry the ignorance of scientific evidence on GMO’s but then completely ignore the overwhelming evidence against man made global warming, and conservative groups become bizzaro opposites.

    There is much better, and more current data but I wrote this article back when Heritage attempted to whitewash the science on GMO’s and the links are a great starting point for investigating the truth.


    It is embarrassing that a group that has valiantly fought the suppression of science on the issue of global warming and climate change would now suddenly do PRECISELY the thing they accuse their opponents on when it comes to GMO’s. You’re not the first to do this but it shows an incredible lack of diligence in publishing the Monsanto multi-billion disinformation campaign without checking it first. Heritage Foundation attempted to whitewash the science behind GMO safety 3 years ago (

    First, the study of “over fed” lab rats has been reinstated in the journal that initially retracted it’s publication. It turns out their editors were threatened by GMO corporation thugs and the panel convened to oversee the controversy was paid off by lobbyists. (sound familiar?) Further, the study has now been replicated by numerous other independent groups.

    Second, MIT and Purdue have made enormous finding the past 3 years in the exact manner in which GMO’s – especially glysophate (Monstanto’s RoundUp weed killer) work in decimating the gut bacteria, endocrine disrupters and mitchondrial damage.

    Just as in the climate brainwashing, colleges are literally withholding instruction on the opposing view of GMO’s . Again – if this was climate science you would have an entire department devoted to the cover-up and corruption of it.

    In fact, over 22 diseases have been linked to GMO’s ( the the plethora of published studies is overwhelming.

    It is unconscionable for a “science truth” organization to suddenly take the tactics of the ill informed anti-science crowd – much less a Christian one.


    Water vapor has been increasing 1/5% per decade; about 8% since 1960. That is about twice the expected rate from water temperature increase (feedback, engineering definition). The warming is welcome (WV is IR active, AKA a greenhouse gas), countering the cooling that would otherwise be occurring, but increases the risk of precipitation related flooding.


    One study on rats does not mean anything. Far more important regarding food production is risk of precipitation related flooding in urban areas. Water vapor has been increasing 1/5% per decade; about 8% since 1960. That is about twice the expected rate from water temperature increase (feedback, engineering definition). The warming is welcome (WV is IR active, AKA a greenhouse gas), countering the cooling that would otherwise be occurring, but increases the risk of precipitation related flooding. The added WV is primarily (96%) from irrigation.


    ” … ignore the overwhelming evidence against man made global warming …” !
    Weather has Always changed in the past, even when population was really marginal on the planet, and it would continue to change also in the future.

    I would suggest to read the book written by Fred. Singer and Dennis Avery, titled:
    ” GLOBAL WARMING – every 1.500 years “.

    GM has been done in the long past to improve various crops cultivations, even inadvertedly!


    I hardly know where to start. I have read with approval your articles debunking climate change, and your Christ-centered reverence for Creation. This article comes close to destroying my confidence in your integrity, let alone wisdom. Let us take your points in order.
    From a 400-page draft risk assessment from the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which revealed a number of concerning findings regarding GM salmon:
    …GM salmon are more susceptible to the disease-causing bacteria Aeromonas salmonicida, which suggests unique animal health problems and environmental concerns
    …Have demonstrated diminished growth rates in AquaBounty’s commercial facilities, casting doubts over any potential “benefits”
    …Have displayed questionable performance, including inconsistent growth rates, which suggests “the growth-hormone gene construct inserted in the fish is not operating in a predictable manner, raising questions about the durability, safety, and commercial viability of GM salmon”.

    At least the genetic modification of salmon is within the Biblical “kind”, and if the modifications had occurred in nature or in a breeding program would not be objectionable – unlike the plant modifications using fish DNA to make plants impervious to glyphosate .

    What genetic modification in plants does is make the plant impervious to chemicals sprayed on the plant to kill insects or weeds. Never mind that the chemicals are demonstrably harmful to humans and animals who consume the crops produced, and absolutely deadly to the life of the soil. The result, initially, may be more abundant harvests, but since more and more herbicides and pesticides are required to overcome the adaptive abilities of weeds and insects, does not result in lower priced food (let alone more nutritious). Incidentally, food nutrition has been declining in the US since the 1940s (when chemical fertilization and weed control became widely used).

    Your next 3 paragraphs repeat the GM talking points absolutely uncritically. Since when did NPR become a reliable source?

    The next paragraph speaks of the vitamin A in sweet potatoes in West Africa. The problem is, the vegetables grown in West Africa are true yams, a starchy vegetable related to sweet potatoes but nutritionally inferior to them. I have personal experience on this issue, since my daughter spent time there as an agricultural missionary.

    The rest of the article again presents Monsato’s claims as fact. True plant and animal breeding for species improvement has been going on since creation, and will obviously help in feeding the world, especially the poor. Genetic modification, on the other hand, works against the Creator’s plan.

  7. Hello Everyone,
    Thanks for your many comments. We asked Dr. Miller to write a second article about this topic since it garnered so many comments. That article has just been published on Earth Rising, and can be found here

    Earth Rising was created as a place to have hard discussions. At the Cornwall Alliance we strongly believe that debate and open discussion (free speech) are absolutely necessary both in the science and policy realms. In that vein, I would encourage you all to follow the links in the article and read that additional information. Then please comment and let’s continue the discussion! Our goal on this blog isn’t agreement, it’s respectful and thoughtful dialogue on hard topics. Thanks! –Megan

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