View from the fence

Social, environmental and economic issues surrounding GM foods, and the latest news

Research recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences report


The latest report from the US National Academy of Sciences is definitely worth a read (free to download). It is an extremely thorough review of the literature, concluding that the GM crops currently available are safe to eat and pose no greater threat to the environment than conventional crops.

I can’t possible summarise the report in a blog post, but a common theme was the need for more research. This wasn’t surprising given that some of their conclusions were ‘experts disagree’, particularly on issues such as the impact of intellectual property.

There was one recommendation which particularly attracted my attention: a need for more investment in crops that aren’t attractive to private firms. Seems obvious, and it was the statement which followed that was particularly interesting: “However, there is evidence that the portfolio of public institutions has shifted to mirror that of private firms more closely.”

Author: Rebecca Nesbit

I am author of a popular science book 'Is that Fish in your Tomato?' exploring the fact and fiction of GM crops. In my work and leisure so far, I have trained bees to detect explosives, used a radar to study butterflies for my PhD, written a novel, taken the train from London to China, organised Biology Week, sold science jewellery on Etsy, and traveled to four continents with Nobel Laureates. Best off all, I've made lots of friends whose support I very much appreciate. Thank you! Please visit my website:

3 thoughts on “Research recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences report

  1. The things that concern me most about GM are not to do with human health, rather gene transference & big business. Can farmers (particularly thinking of poor farmers abroad) keep the seed themselves & use them to replant, or is the GM business so protective like Monsanto, which brings this to mind
    Secondly, can genes move from GM crops to wild crops or ‘weeds’, whether crossing strains with pollen or via some other natural (non-human) process. Creating superweeds may be unlikely, but worth a risk, but the first point is to me a far more serious moral question about who owns natural penomena – genes.

    What do you think?

  2. I agree. And I think the big business aspect goes well beyond GM, in that currently it is very common to have to repurchase seeds from big firms. This is partly to do with intellectual property, and partly to do with hybrid seeds, where the next generation of seeds you produce won’t be as good as the ones you can buy. Farmers in the developed world (and in fact often the developing world) find that the extra money spent on seeds is worth it for the extra profit. However, if you want to provide affordable seed suitable for local conditions encountered by small-scale farmers in the developing world, Monsanto isn’t the way to achieve that.

    With seed saving cases such as this one, I’m actually on the side of Monsanto – that farmer broke the law. If we don’t think it is appropriate for big businesses to sue farmers who save seeds then we should change the law (and I think there’s an argument for changing the law to be less in the favour of big businesses), not let some farmers break it whilst others abide by it. Would you agree?

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