In late May, a federal study by the National Academy of Sciences declared genetically modified organisms (GMOs) safe for human consumption.

But not everyone was convinced, including environmental group Greenpeace.

The organization has been spearheading a campaign against genetic engineering (GE), calling it a "giant genetic experiment by commercial interests."

Greenpeace argues in its website that GMOs can contaminate non-GE environments in an "unforeseeable and uncontrollable way."

The group asserts that the release of GMOs is "genetic pollution" and is a major threat because once GMOs mingle in the environment, they cannot be taken back.

But are GMOs truly a danger to human and environmental health? More than 100 Nobel laureates - 41 of whom have won the Nobel Prize for Medicine - believe otherwise.

Genetically Modified Organisms Are Safe

In a letter presented at a news conference in Washington, 109 Nobel laureates addressed the claims of Greenpeace and proclaimed that genetically modified foods are safe to eat.

In fact, we will need them for the future, scientists said. Genetically modified foods are a safe way to meet the growing demands of an increasing global population.

Opponents of GMOs are standing in the way of delivering nutritious food to those who need it, the laureates wrote. They focused their argument on genetically modified "golden rice."

Greenpeace has spoken in opposition to golden rice, but laureates say the food has the potential to eliminate or reduce the number of deaths and disease caused by vitamin A deficiency.

Indeed, this disease, which consists of the lack of vitamin A in the blood, has the greatest impact on the poorest population in Southeast Asia and Africa, scientists wrote.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 250 million individuals suffer from vitamin A deficiency, including 40 percent of children aged 5 and below living in developing countries.

The letter mentioned that regulatory groups and scientists have repeatedly found genetically modified food and crops improved through biotechnology as safe as food grown in other ways.

Richard J. Roberts, who spearheaded the letter writing, tells the New York Times that a tremendous amount of misinformation has been put out by Greenpeace.

Roberts, who was one of the winners of the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine, says plant scientists have been "attacked fiercely" over their views that they have chosen to stay silent.

The laureates also said in their letter that there has never been a confirmed case of negative health effect for animals or humans from consumption of genetically altered food.

"Their environmental impacts have been shown repeatedly to be less damaging to the environment," the group of laureates added.

Greenpeace's Response

Greenpeace has released a statement as a rebuttal, claiming that golden rice is a "failed experiment" and not an effective way of getting global approval for GMOs in the future.

The group says rather than investing in this "overpriced public relations exercise," scientists need to address the issue of malnutrition through a diverse range of diet, as well as equitable access to eco-agriculture and food.

Photo: David Pursehouse | Flickr

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