NEWS

Keep up the research, but don’t rush to bring these products to the marketplace so quickly

Dimitris Kouretas, assistant professor of the physiology of animal organisms at Thessaly University, believes we are part of a food experiment whose consequences will be slow to appear. What do you think are the greatest dangers of GM products? The dangers for the environment and for consumers’ health. Genetic modification causes major disturbance to the geonomic integrity of a plant (it is a far cry from the improvements made by producing hybrids), so the plant makes substances in quantities it would never have produced and which may have unwanted effects after some years. Several studies have shown that GM plants contain very different levels of sugars, amino acids and fats than conventional plants do. The legislation stipulates that substances in concentrations of more than 0.1 percent of the total plant be examined, but concentrations as low as 0.01 percent can be toxic. The consequences may be acute, as when 40 people died in the US from tryptophane produced by GM bacilli, or chronic. Reproductive abnormalities have shown up after three generations in laboratory animals fed on GM food. In America these plants have been widely used without any problems. Why are we making such a fuss? Consumers have taken the corn producer Starlink to court in the US over allergy problems. Farmers in Missouri got a lot of money from Monsanto over the destruction of their GM crops. Many other cases have gone to court. But all of us, and especially domestic animals, eat GM foods. We are part of a global food experiment whose consequences will be slow to appear. Most people associate toxicity with instant action. But it often takes years to evaluate the effect of a food on health. GM plant producing companies don’t monitor their products adequately, but unfortunately they are covered by the legislation or they influence it, so GM products are not labeled. Should scientific research in this field stop? Not at all. But there must be time for tests on GM products before they are marketed. A new drug gets tested for 5-10 years before it goes on sale. Since GM plants contain substances that harbor risks, why shouldn’t they and their by-products be tested for a longer time on laboratory animals? Companies put these new products onto the market in three months. Does strict legislation protect consumers? Yes. Labeling must become mandatory at once, and there must be many compulsory tests before a product is deemed safe. It takes time, but consumers must be given the opportunity to choose and to know what they’re eating.