New England Journal of Medicine op-ed raises concerns about the link between GMOs and herbicide use.

  • The cultivation and consumption of genetically modified (GM) crops and the labeling of foods containing GM ingredients remain subjects of debate and discussion at the global level.  As previously covered on this blog, Congress remains poised to act on legislative efforts to prohibit states from mandating the labeling of GM foods.  One central tenet of arguments that GM labeling is unnecessary is the lack of any scientific consensus that GM foods are any less safe than their “conventional” counterparts.
  • An op-ed published in the New England Journal of Medicine raises questions about the scientific evidence supporting the safety of GM crops.  Specifically, the article asserts that the biotechnology industry’s focus on herbicide resistance has resulted in an overreliance on herbicides, and especially on glyphosate.  In light of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2014 approval of a combination herbicide that will be marketed in conjunction with GM seeds, coupled with the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) 2015 determination that the components of the new herbicide (glyphosate/2,4-D) are probable/possible human carcinogens (respectively), this article urges a re-evaluation of the hazards that the link between GM foods and herbicides may pose to human health.  The article concludes by suggesting that the “time has come to revisit the United States’ reluctance to label GM foods.”
  • While many arguments about the alleged hazards associated with GM foods focus on the mere use of genetic engineering, the current article takes a more nuanced approach.  However, since the article postulates theoretical hazards and does not cite empirical data showing increased harm associated with the link between GM foods and herbicides, it remains to be seen whether science will support speculation in this case.