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Board of Science and Education

Genetically modified foods and health:
a second interim statement

The 1999' interim report of the British Medical Association is used as a very strong argument by all opponents of GMO.

Therefore it is useful to learn the second interim statement that can be found on www.bma.org.uk. We are presenting here the Introduction and Conclusions.

""Introduction

The advent of genetically modified (GM) technology has raised concerns about technological advances in food production to an unprecedented level and it has proved difficult to hold a balanced and objective debate. Individuals and organizations are all too readily perceived as for or against genetic modification of food crops, and this has not helped us understand the implications or make decisions based on a clear examination of risks and benefits.

The BMA produced an interim report in 1999 on the health implications of GM food crops. In accordance with our intention to keep the public informed, we held a round table meeting of experts in June 2003 and have recently reviewed the emerging evidence. In producing an update of our 1999 report, the BMA seeks to support balanced debate. As an organization of doctors, we are not experts in agricultural techniques and crop science, but we are concerned with all issues of public health. The environment in which we live, the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat, all have an impact on our health as individuals. It is this context that the following statement has been prepared.

Conclusions regarding GM foods and health

The Royal Society review (2002) concluded that the risks to human health associated with the use of specific viral DNA sequences in GM plants are negligible, and while calling for caution in the introduction of potential allergens into food crops, stressed the absence of evidence that commercially available GM foods cause clinical allergic manifestations.

The BMA shares the view that that there is no robust evidence to prove that GM foods are unsafe but we endorse the call for further research and surveillance to provide convincing evidence of safety and benefit.

Epidemiological health surveillance will remain impractical while so few of the UK population are exposed to GM foods. In the USA where a much larger proportion of the population has been exposed, food-derived illnesses are on the increase, although any suggestion that this could be linked to GM foods is not supported by scientific evidence. It is noteworthy that hospital admissions for systemic allergic disorders, including food allergy, increased significantly in England between 1990-91 and 2000-01 despite very low levels of exposure to GM foods. However, this debate underlines the need for the UK to take steps now to improve its nutritional and related health surveillance.

The BMA still considers that with several caveats (notably adequate risk assessment procedures, independent and rigorous testing of novel foods, adequate post marketing surveillance and proper regulation), genetically modified food has enormous potential to benefit both the developed and the developing world in the long-term. Continuing sound scientific research will provide the only means of eliminating the uncertainty that still surrounds the environmental and health impact of GM crops.""

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