Position Statements on Biotechnology
American Medical Association (AMA)
Report on Genetically Modified Crops and Foods
issued by the scientific council of the American Medical Association
(AMA) says that no long-term health effects have been detected from
the use of transgenic crops and genetically modified foods, and that
these foods are substantially equivalent to their conventional counterparts.
to a summary of the report, more than 40 varieties of transgenic crops
have been approved for use in the United States during the last decade,
most of them genetically modified to produce a pesticide called Bacillus
thuringiensis (Bt). For example, Bt corn, which became commercially
available in 1997, is resistant to the European corn borer.
released at the AMA Interim Meeting in December 2000, says that the
risk of gene transfer from plant products consumed as food to the gut
microorganisms of animals or to human cells "is generally acknowledged
to be negligible, but one that cannot be completely discounted."
report also addresses concerns about the potential for Bt-containing
plants to have harmful effects on unintended organisms. For example,
laboratory studies have found that pollen from genetically engineered
corn plants can harm monarch butterflies. However, the AMA report concludes
that the harmful effects of Bt-containing plants on nontarget organisms
have not been observed in the field. "Nevertheless, these and
other possible environmental effects remain areas of concern," the
recommends that federal regulatory oversight of agricultural biotechnology
should continue to be science-based and guided by the characteristics
of the plant and its intended use, not by the method used to produce
it. The AMA also believes that there is no scientific justification
to date for special labeling of genetically modified foods.
Following is the text of the report summary:
the technology used to produce transgenic crops and examine issues
relevant to the utilization of transgenic crops and genetically modified
foods, including the current regulatory framework, possible human health
effects, potential environmental impacts, and other consumer-related
issued over the last 2 years by various scientific and governmental
bodies on selected aspects of genetically modified crops were reviewed.
Additionally, literature searches were conducted in the MEDLINE database
and Lexis/Nexis GenMed library for articles between 1990 and September
2000 using the terms "genetic engineering" combined with "food
microbiology," "food technology," "agriculture," "plants,
edible," "food," and "crops, agricultural." A
secondary search was conducted for articles between 1995 and September
2000 using the search term "plants, transgenic." References
containing information relevant to the safety, regulation, and environmental
impact of transgenic crops and foods were examined further. Additional
references were culled from the bibliographies of these pertinent references.
The World Wide Web was searched for information using the search terms "genetically
modified foods" or "genetically modified crops," revealing
several links to additional scientific and regulatory sites.
40 transgenic crop varieties have been cleared through the federal
review process with enhanced agronomic and/or nutritional characteristics
or one or more features of pest protection (insect and viruses) and
tolerance to herbicides. The most widely used transgenic pest-protected
plants express insecticidal proteins derived from the bacterium Bacillus
thuringiensis (Bt). Crops and foods produced using recombinant DNA
techniques have been available for fewer than 10 years and no long-term
effects have been detected to date. These foods are substantially equivalent
to their conventional counterparts. Genetic engineering is capable
of introducing allergens into recipient plants, but the overall risks
of introducing an allergen into the food supply are believed to be
similar to or less than that associated with conventional breeding
methods. The risk of horizontal gene transfer from plants to environmental
bacteria or from plant products consumed as food to gut microorganisms
or human cells is generally acknowledged to be negligible, but one
that cannot be completely discounted. Pest-resistance due to exposure
to Bt-containing plants has not occurred to date, and harmful effects
on nontarget organisms, which have been detected in the laboratory,
have not been observed in the field. Nevertheless, these and other
possible environmental effects remain areas of concern.
Federal regulatory oversight of agricultural biotechnology should be science-based. Methods to assure the safety of foods derived from genetically modified crops should continue to be refined and improved. Although no untoward effects have been detected, the use of antibiotic markers that encode resistance to clinically important antibiotics should be avoided if possible. Genetic modification of plants could potentially lead to detrimental consequences to the environment. Therefore, a broad-based plan to study environmental issues should be instituted. There is no scientific justification for special labeling of genetically modified foods, as a class, and voluntary labeling is without value unless it is accompanied by focused consumer education. Government, industry, and the scientific and medical communities have a responsibility to educate the public and improve the availability of unbiased information on genetically modified crops and research activities.
statements, recommended by the Council on Scientific Affairs, were
adopted as AMA Policy at the 2000 Interim AMA Meeting:
regulatory oversight of agricultural biotechnology should continue
to be science-based and guided by the characteristics of the plant,
its intended use, and the environment into which it is to be introduced,
not by the method used to produce it, in order to facilitate comprehensive,
efficient regulatory review of new genetically modified crops and foods.
supports efforts for the systematic safety assessment of genetically
modified foods and encourage: (a) development and validation of additional
techniques for the detection and/or assessment of unintended effects;
(b) continued use of methods to detect substantive changes in nutrient
or toxicant levels in genetically modified foods as part of a substantial
equivalence evaluation; (c) development and use of alternative transformation
technologies to avoid utilization of antibiotic resistance markers
that code for clinically relevant antibiotics, where feasible; and
(d) that priority should be given to basic research in food allergenicity
to support the development of improved methods for identifying potential
supports continued research into the potential consequences to the
environment of genetically modified crops including the: (a) assessment
of the impacts of pest-protected crops on nontarget organisms compared
to impacts of standard agricultural methods, through rigorous field
evaluations; (b) assessment of gene flow and its potential consequences
including key factors that regulate weed populations; rates at which
pest resistance genes from the crop would be likely to spread among
weed and wild populations; and the impact of novel resistance traits
on weed abundance; (c) implementation of resistance management practices
and continued monitoring of their effectiveness; and (d) development
of monitoring programs to assess ecological impacts of pest-protected
crops that may not be apparent from the results of field tests.
recognizes the many potential benefits offered by genetically modified
crops and foods, not support a moratorium on planting genetically modified
crops, and encourages ongoing research developments in food biotechnology.
The AMA recognizes that the government, industry, and the scientific and medical communities have a responsibility to educate the public and improve the availability of unbiased information on genetically modified crops and of research activities.
statement, recommended by the Council on Scientific Affairs, was adopted
as a Directive at the 2000 Interim AMA Meeting:
and Agricultural Organization
Society of African Scientists
United States of America
Biotechnology Advisory Committee
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