Study finds genetically modified crops safe but benefits hyped

The US National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine has found no evidence of human health effects from genetically modified crops. The 400-page report released yesterday, was based on 900 studies and reviews of the disease data.

However, according to commentators, though safety of genetically modified crops had now moved into  ''settled science'' category, there was still much room to fight over.

Disagreement continued whether the herbicide glyphosate, often sold with genetically modified seeds, might cause cancer; about the effects of genetically engineered (GE) fields on weed growth, pest growth and crop yields. The report also called for ''transparency'' over whether genetically modified organisms (GMOs) were associated with specific foods.

Over the last two decades when the first genetically engineered tomato appeared, the so-called ''biotech'' crops had a spread of 181.5 million hectares by 2014 before it declined by about 1 per cent. While the tomato was regarded safe, it was reported to be tasteless.

Developing countries in Central America, Asia and Africa relied more on biotech crops than industrialised countries.

There were over 85 genetically modified products in the pipeline, including water-efficient maize for Africa.

The study is said to be free of any biotech industry money and all the scientists involved had gone through a vetting process to ensure that none of those involved could be charged with having financial conflicts of interests.

The National Academies are private, non-profit organisations set up by Congress and offer advice on science, technology and medicine. The report said US agriculture had reaped economic benefits from genetic engineering.

It was not known whether the new findings would help the biotechnology industry get the US Senate to establish a national labeling policy for genetically engineered food and ingredients before 1 July.

From that date, Vermont would start imposing stiff fines on food companies that did not disclose on labels if genetically engineered food or ingredients were being used.