Consumer Reports is widely known as a respectable organization that reviews and tests products on behalf of consumers. It is somewhat of a watchdog for consumer products. Unfortunately, the organization has stepped off the tracks into the realm of “pseudo-science.” In its latest articles, Consumer Reports has taken an anti-GMO position, even though they have come to the party a little late and seem woefully uneducated about the topic.
Now representatives from the organization are making the rounds on morning television talk shows to talk about biotechnology. For all the consumer advocacy the organization has done and the credibility it has earned, it seems they have decided to throw it all away.
Consumer Reports story on biotechnology is nothing more than campaign literature for the anti-GMO labeling campaigns. As I’ve written about previously, Colorado’s Proposition 105 and Oregon’s Measure 92 are ballot initiatives that would require labeling. The organization is now advocating in favor of these proposals. While Consumer Reports has blathered on about the opposition to labeling efforts spending money on these campaigns, I certainly hope they are calculating the time, effort, and media reach they are donating to the labeling initiatives.
Unfortunately, Consumer Reports also made a handful of statements both in print and on various television programs that are just straight up false. I’ll take them one at a time.
Consumer Reports claim: There haven’t been sufficient studies done to determine whether there are long-term health risks for people eating GMO foods.
Truth: I’m not sure what Consumer Reports would consider a “sufficient” amount of research on the long-term health risks, but the general scientific consensus is that genetically modified crops are safe. In fact, there have been over 2,000+ studies — most of them done by independent researchers — that unquestionably demonstrate GMOs are safe. The database of studies is online and available for anyone to peruse. It’s called GENERA and easily accessible to the public…and Consumer Reports.
Consumer Reports claim: “[S]ome animal studies suggest that eating genetically engineered crops such as corn may have harmful effects on the immune system, liver, and kidneys.”
Truth: Again, Consumer Reports seems to use carefully crafted language to portray biotechnology in a bad light. To most people, “studies” means something with some minimum level of scientific standards. But Consumer Reports obviously doesn’t seem to think those are important, because the only studies on animals that show negative effects have all been discredited or severely criticized for not following scientific standards. In layman’s terms, that means they aren’t credible. (I’ve written about several of these “studies” here, here, and here.) In reality, livestock operations in the United States for the past 18 years has provided the largest, multi-generational study available. Over the last 18 years, feed has been fed to our livestock, comprising anywhere from 70-90% of genetically modified crops. In all of that time over the course of several generations, there has never been a single report of an animal getting sick, having complications, and any other negative reaction to biotech crops. In fact, we’ve fed our livestock over 1 trillion GMO meals without a single incident.
Consumer Reports claim: “[T]he federal government has not mandated that genetically modified organisms be proved safe before they’re used in your food.”
Truth: If you’re even tempted to believe this one, I suggest you read my interview of Neal Carter, the man responsible for developing Arctic Apples. I specifically asked him about the regulatory process and he explained a little about the huge hurdles a new biotech product must go through to make it to the market. On average, it takes 13 years and $136 million to get a new biotech product through the regulatory process so that it can be commercial produced. The FDA reviews the crop to ensure it is safe to eat. The EPA then reviews GMOs that are enhanced with pest resistance to see that they are safe for the environment. The USDA then reviews the new biotech crop to ensure it is safe to grow. Government agencies are involved in the process.
Consumer Reports claim: “The increase in GMO production “has led to about a 10-fold increase in farmers’ use of glyphosate, a weedkiller better known as Roundup, which is made by Monsanto—a company that also produces genetically modified seeds—because the herbicide won’t harm their GMO crops.”
Truth: This statement is technically correct, but the assertion it is making is deceptive. No doubt the introduction of genetically modified crops that are immune to the effects of glyphosate has lead to an increase in the use of RoundUp and other glyphosate herbicides. However, what Consumer Reports fails to mention is that the overall use of herbicides has gone down. So, while we may be using more of one kind of herbicide, GMOs have led to a decline in the overall use of herbicides. That’s something that both farmers and consumers can be happy about.
As Consumer Reports continues this baseless attack on modern agriculture, I hope they’ll be confronted with the truth about this technology. Biotechnology is safe, it is environmentally-friendly, and it is an important tool in crop production.
You should forward this blog article to CR at http://web.consumerreports.org/customerservice/customer-service.html
Well done!. Or, as I put it: Cancel Your Consumer Reports Subscription: the inmates are running the asylum! http://exm.nr/1vUsxVI
Joey Cavalier (JC) says
What can we do? I've shared the article, but I would like to help fix this.
I think sharing the article is an important first step. The biggest problem is that CR has reached a whole bunch of people with their nonsense. Correcting that and talking about it with people goes a long way. The second thing is to contact CR and tell them you're unhappy about it. George (above) supplied us with this link: http://web.consumerreports.org/customerservice/cu…
Here's an interesting article from the Genetic Literacy Project, showing a link between CR and Dr. Oz! Makes sense now, doesn't it? http://bit.ly/1EvlngU/
Isn't it true that the FDA process is "voluntary" and not required by the government? Granted, the biotech companies have voluntarily submitted to the FDA process, I don't believe it's mandated. source: http://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/u…
How "voluntary" is "voluntary? From the link you posted and what I understood from talking with Neal, the FDA's involvement is not mandatory, but most (if not all) biotech products go through an evaluation with the FDA. The crops would also have to meet all the safety requirements that are enforced with the FDA for food. I did check out the website provided by the FDA for which traits have been reviewed by them, and (not surprisingly) you can clearly see there are quite a few, including herbicide resistant crops.From the FDA: Safety"Food and food ingredients derived from GE plants must adhere to the same safety requirements under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic (FD&C) Act that apply to food and food ingredients derived from traditionally bred plants.FDA encourages developers of GE plants to consult with the agency before marketing their products. Although the consultation is voluntary, Keefe says developers find it helpful in determining the steps necessary to ensure that food products made from their plants are safe and otherwise lawful.The developer produces a safety assessment, which includes the identification of distinguishing attributes of new genetic traits, whether any new material in food made from the GE plant could be toxic or allergenic when eaten, and a comparison of the levels of nutrients in the GE plant to traditionally bred plants.FDA scientists evaluate the safety assessment and also review relevant data and information that are publicly available in published scientific literature and the agency's own records.The consultation is complete only when FDA's team of scientists are satisfied with the developer's safety assessment and have no further questions regarding safety or other regulatory issues.As of May 2013, FDA has completed 96 consultations on genetically engineered crops. A complete list of all completed consultations and our responses are available at http://www.fda.gov/bioconinventory."
Dave Lundgren says
It's obvious that there are people inside that organization that have an agenda based on internet gossip and not sound science similar to PETA
Ok, then I do think this part of Consumer Reports article is correct because it's not mandated: "[T]he federal government has not mandated that genetically modified organisms be proved safe before they're used in your food."
Also, wondering about your statement that, "The crops would also have to meet all the safety requirements that are enforced with the FDA for food". – which I believe is correct. What are those standards and are they mandatory?
I'm really just trying to understand this process, so I hope that you can help me. By way of example, I checked out one of the FDA consultation letters here:http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodScienceResearch/Biotechnology/Submissions/ucm390437.htmIt says that:"Dow submitted a summary of its safety and nutritional assessment of the genetically engineered soybean on October 15, 2012. Dow submitted additional information on February 28, 2013. These communications informed FDA of the steps taken by Dow to ensure that this product complies with the legal and regulatory requirements that fall within FDA’s jurisdiction. Based on the safety and nutritional assessment Dow has conducted, it is our understanding that Dow has concluded that food and feed derived from DAS-81419-2 soybean are not materially different in composition, safety, and other relevant parameters from soybean-derived food and feed currently on the market, and that genetically engineered DAS-81419-2 soybean does not raise issues that would require premarket review or approval by FDA."Can you help me understand that statement? Does that mean that the FDA didn't do any of their own testing, and only DOW did? Or, what am I misunderstanding? If anyone can explain this to me in layman's terms that would be awesome, as I'm discussing this with a friend right now who is anti-GMO, and I'm trying to convince her of a few points.
1. No, you are incorrect. The FDA is part of the process, but review by the USDA and EPA would be mandatory. All three agencies share overview of biotechnology. I have no read the entire 112-page document, but the following PDF explains the process. You can also read about it on both the USDA and EPA's websites. The bottom line is that there is considerable mandatory government oversight.http://www.aphis.usda.gov/brs/fedregister/coordinated_framework.pdfhttp://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentidonly=true&contentid=biotech-plants.xmlhttp://www.epa.gov/opp00001/biopesticides/reg_of_biotech/eparegofbiotech.htm2. In response to your question about the FDA's food laws, I'm talking about any food law that the FDA is in charge of implementing. Perhaps you aren't that familiar with how federal agencies work, but they are given certain abilities and authority through legislation that they interpret and implement. The Food Safety and Modernization Act, which was enacted in 2009, is an example of one of those laws.3. All biotech products are considered "regulated" when they start out. It is up to the company to prove that they are safe and can be "de-regulated." The company has to make that proof to the USDA, the FDA, and the EPA (as discussed in the other links I shared with you). The federal government does sponsor studies, but I don't know how many for sure and it isn't doing that for ever biotech product. In general, the federal government is not spending tax dollars to conduct these huge studies — that's the companies jobs. Sometimes the companies do the studies themselves (which if fine, because science has certain indicators of reliability that the federal agencies can check) and sometimes there are third party studies. The companies then submit the information to the federal government and hope the product will get "de-regulated." That's why it's so important to have people working at those government agencies that actually know something about this science. I linked to it in the article, but you can look at the actual studies at GENERA: http://genera.biofortified.org/
canola, even organic canola is only a few decades old. i doubt any long term studies have been made on it
I think Jon Entine's speech at the National Academy of Sciences did a nice job discussing this. He said: "What about the claim made by Charles Benbrook and repeated endlessly by anti-GMO activists that there have been few or no long-term studies? That’s false. GENERA lists more than three-dozen examples of multi-year studies showing no unusual health consequences from consuming GMOs. A recent updated review published last December of 33 studies—17 long-term and 16 multigenerational studies—by a team of scientists including Chelsea Snell andAgnès Ricroch found, “Results…do not suggest any health hazards…and there were no statistically significant differences within parameters observed.”In early September came the publication of an unprecedented study that covers literally trillions of meals. Writing in the Journal of Animal Science, University of California-Davis geneticist Alison Van Eenennaam oversaw the longest term monitoring of the health impact of GM crops in history. She reviewed 29 years of feeding data covering more than 100 billion animals, from before 1996 when feed was 100 percent non-GMO, until after its introduction when it soared past 90 percent."You can read the entire thing here: http://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2014/09/16/glps-jon-entine-cautions-national-academy-of-sciences-about-views-of-anti-science-ngos/
Thanks for your response, I really appreciate it! At the link you shared above, I see that:1. the USDA "is responsible for protecting agriculture from pests and diseases."2. the EPA "regulates the sale, distribution and use of pesticides in order to protect health, and the environment"3. the FDA "is responsible for ensuring the safety and proper labeling of all plant-derived food and feed"So, is it correct that these 3 agencies play different roles in the approval process?
Generally, yes. But I would guess there is probably a lot of overlap as well. But different governing statutes.
Im not buying any of your BS. There is no way GMOs are safe for consumption or the environment. If they are so safe producers would INSIST on labelling.
Oh right, that makes so much sense. Especially when we have a bunch of hacks making money off of fear-mongering about genetically modified foods.I would take your position a little more seriously if, again, you had any proof to substantiate your criticisms, but you don't. I, on the other hand, have linked to a database of over 2,000 scientific studies showing I'm right. Try again.
FB: Bear JayThe issue is not with labeling GMO or Non-GMO. the issue is the cost of separating the two during processing. Since virtually all Non-GMO is labeled you can safely assume everything else probably contains or has been processed in the same facility as GMO products.If you want GMO free produce buy Organic labeled products. The cost of the label is already included in their price. If you want safe, inexpensive, high quality, food and fiber you can buy it from any shelf in your local grocer.Just do not try and force GMO producers and processors to subsidize the organic label. As a farmer I choose to grow GMO seed. As a consumer I choose to eat GMO products. This informed choice is because every legitimate peer reviewed study says that GMO's are safe. And I know first hand that we use fewer pesticides producing higher quality than we did before.Do not get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with organic products. Their higher cost is a direct reflection of the cost of production and marketing. Increasing the cost of non-organic produce will not reduce the cost of Organic produce. If the desired effect of increasing the demand for organic produce is realized it would in fact increase the cost of organic produce even more.What we are left with is a move to increase the cost of all produce disguised as a safety issue. When all the science says the safety is not compromised.
This argument makes no sense. You are saying producers would want to label GMOs because they are safe? Ugh Sorry but the logic here is way off. The mass majority of people think GMOs are bad because other countries have labeled or banned them with absolutely no scientific evidence. So producers would 100% not want to label them because they ARE safe. Labeling them would reinforce the lies about GMOs being bad for you.
Depends on what is being modified….at the same time organics are not all that safe..about adozen years ago, people got sick eating tomatoes because the farm was using a bio based insecticide made from spider venom…it was absorbed by the tomatoes…..people ate, got sick..Same is true with GMO's some are good, some are bad….depends what you're doing and how you're doing it…
Agreed – to an extent. All the biotech products that have been created and are commercially available right now have undergone testing and scrutiny and are safe. That doesn't mean that there might not be one down the road that isn't safe. Especially with "GMOs" we should look at the time on an individual basis, which is what the federal government does.
Whether GMO's are safe or not, I have a huge problem with the way Monsanto (and others) handles ownership of genetic material in seeds, and how litigious they are. For that reason alone, I am opposed to GMO's.
So you could deny children in Africa golden rice, which could help maintain their eyesight because you don't like the actions taken by ONE of many biotech companies? That's pretty ignorant.
" I have a huge problem with the way Monsanto (and others) handles ownership of genetic material in seeds, and how litigious they are. "———————————————————————FB: Bear JayDo you support the copyright laws pertaining to a book, song, or movie? If you do not then yours is a null argument. If you do support intellectual property rights then you must realize that producing a strain of seed and bringing it to market can take 14 years and hundreds of millions of dollars. Yes, it costs even more than a big name blockbuster movie. With Sandra Bullock and Bruce Willis. Would Sandra or Bruce be litigious if you were bootlegging copies of their work?-Even then the litigiousness of Monsanto has been exaggerated. Do not read the headlines in the anti-GMO literature. Read the court documents. Or read both and compare them for accuracy.-As a grower I choose to buy and grow Their patented seeds. Farmers flock to their door because they built a better mouse trap. We could choose to not grow their seed as Non-GMO seed is still available. I just do not want to work that hard for less compensation. Several years back Monsanto's patent for Round-Up (glyphosate) expired. this is the technology their round-Up Ready (RR) seed is based on. We can now purchase our herbicide generically. Yet just like generic medicine with the same active ingredient Round-up does a better job. This is because they have %50 glyphosate compared with %41 glyphosate in some generic products.All of this adds up to fewer resources being used to feed and cloth the ever increasing population.
Nice article.I too am disappointed in CR,since I am a long time subscriber of usually two and sometimes four of their publications.They are usually fairly conservative and careful about any health claims,but occasionally they stray into less than accurate information.I guess I need to write them a letter.Thanks again.
Forgive my ignorance, this is just a lay mans question. Are Monsantos products(GMO or otherwise) safe/healthy for consumers.. What about documentaries like Food Inc, which criticise these companies and their practices? Their products would also have to go through rigorous testing by the USDA, FDA & EPA, wouldn't it? So Is Food Inc also wrong/misguided then?
Honestly, I have not watched the movie Food Inc. I've been told there are inaccuracies in the film, but having not seen the movie, I can't necessarily speak to it. Some of my peers that have seen the movie suggest this document as a response: <a href="http://americanagriwomen.org/files/response%20to%20food%20inc.pdfhttp://americanagriwomen.org/files/response%20to%… />As far as testing of biotech crops, yes — the USDA, FDA, and EPA scrutinize any biotech product before it is released for commercial use.
I forwarded this to CR today with the added comment that their “chief scientist” is ignorant, misleading and probably an idiot. He and Food Babe are fast friends and admire each others stance on the GMO subject. This is a well written article…Thanks