GMO Myths & Truths

14 Myths About GMOs

Genetically modified crops are promoted on the basis of a range of far-reaching claims from the biotech industry and its supporters.  A new, evidence-based report by U.K. scientists shows these claims are unsubstantiated.  Here is a snapshot of their findings.

MYTH #1: Genetic engineering is just an extension of natural breeding.

TRUTH: Genetic engineering is very different from natural breeding and poses special risks. Natural breeding occurs between like life forms-a cat with a cat, not a cat with a dog or a tomato with a fish.  GM transfers DNA between unrelated organisms in ways that do not occur naturally.


MYTH #2: GM foods are strictly regulated for safety.

TRUTH: GM food regulation in most countries varies from non-existent (the U.S.) to weak. In the U.S. the FDA overruled its own scientists to form a GM policy, in the 1990s.  The policy required no safety testing or labeling.


MYTH #3: GM foods are safe to eat.

TRUTH: GM foods can be toxic or allergenic. Peer-reviewed studies have found serious, harmful effects on the health of livestock and lab animals fed GMOs.


MYTH #4: GM Bt insecticidal crops harm only insects and are harmless to animals and people.

TRUTH: GM Bt insecticidal crops pose hazards to people and animals that ingest them. Findings include toxic effects on the small intestine, liver, kidney, spleen, and pancreas, and disturbances in the digestive and immune systems.


MYTH #5: GM animal feed poses no risks to animal or human health.

TRUTH: GM feed affects the health of animals and may affect the humans who eat their products. Bt toxin protein has been found in the blood of pregnant women and the blood supply to their fetuses.


MYTH #6: GM crops increase yield potential.

TRUTH: GM crops do not increase yield potential-and in many cases decrease it. Dr. Doug Gurian-Sherman: "Traditional breeding ...can be solely credited with the intrinsic yield increases in the U.S. and other parts of the world that characterized the agriculture of the 20th century:'


MYTH #7: GM crops decrease pesticide use.

TRUTH: GM crops increase pesticide use. In the first 13 years since their introduction, in 1996, GM crops increased pesticide use by 383 million pounds.


MYTH #8: No-till farming with GM crops is “environmentally friendly”.

TRUTH: Claims of environmental benefits are unsound. GM herbicide-tolerant crops, such as Roundup Ready soy, have increased the use of toxic chemicals and led to glyphosate-resistant superweeds.  These superweeds and other pests now require even more chemical controls.


MYTH #9: Roundup (Monsanto's glyphosate) is a benign, biodegradable herbicide.

TRUTH: Roundup is not biodegradable, and was forced by law to remove that claim from its packaging.  Roundup persists in the environment and has toxic effects on wildlife. Roundup (Glyphosate) is toxic, and was detected in 60%-100% of air and rain samples in the U.S. Midwest during crop growing season.

MYTH #10: GM crops can "coexist" with non-GM.

TRUTH: "Coexistence" rapidly results in widespread contamination of non-GM and organic crops. Germany passed a law making GM crop growers liable for economic damages to non-GM farmers resulting from GM contamination. The law has virtually halted the planting of GM crops in that country.


MYTH #11: GM will deliver climate-ready crops.

TRUTH: Conventional breeding outstrips GM in delivering climate-ready crops. Tolerance to extreme weather and resistance to accompanying pests and diseases are complex traits that GM cannot deliver.


MYTH #12: GM reduces energy use.

TRUTH: GM crops are energy-hungry. They depend on large amounts of herbicides which require large amounts of fossil fuels to manufacture. The U.S. food system spends 10 kilocalories of fossil energy for every 1 kilocalorie produced. Two-thirds of that energy goes  to produce synthetic fertilizers and on-farm mechanization.


MYTH #13: GM crops are needed to feed the world's growing population.

TRUTH: GM crops are irrelevant to feeding the world. GM neither delivers higher yields nor produces more with fewer inputs than non-GM crops. Hunger is a problem of distribution and poverty, which GM crop growth in developing nations have been shown to exacerbate.


MYTH #14: GM crops are vital to achieving food security.

TRUTH: Agro-ecological farming is the key to food security, according to 400 scientists and experts from 80 countries, a position endorsed by 62 governments worldwide. Their report, the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology, did not endorse GM crops or livestock.



Summarized from "GMO Myths and Truths: An evidence-based examination of the claims made for the safety and efficacy of genetically modified crops," by Michael Antoniou, PhD; Claire Robinson, MPhil; and John Fagan, PhD; June 2012, published by Earth Open Source, a London based not-for-profit dedicated to assuring the sustainability, security, and safety of the global food system. Download the free 123-page report at www.earthopensource.org .