Benefits and Risks of Food Biotechnology

Author(s): Van Gundy, Seymour D.; Bruening, George; Bruhn, Christine M.; Conko, Gregory; Ellstrand, Norman C.; Hegde, Subray; Luscher, Dave; Miller, Henry I.; Schiopu, Tamara; Steggall, John; Vanderveen, John; Wright, Brian D.

Release Date: July 15, 2002 | Last Updated Date: July 15, 2002

Abstract

The objective of this report is to provide a concise review of the scientific literature on the benefits and risks of food biotechnology for the State of California Food Biotechnology Task Force and its Advisory Committee and is in response to California Senate Bill 2065 of 2000. The primary focus of this report is on crop biotechnology (the applications of biotechnology to agriculture) and any positive or negative impacts on human and animal feeding and the environment. The introduction of any new technology brings not only benefits but also risks, both real and imagined. Spliced-DNA crop technology has raised potential questions regarding food safety risks, environmental risks, and other social and ethical issues for the consumer. Two facts about spliced-DNA crops have fueled the debate about their regulation and acceptance. First, the source of the introduced DNA may be taxonomically distant from the plant species, e.g., from a bacterium. Second, current technology does not control the location in the genome at which the new, DNA-spliced transgene is introduced. However, discussions and debates about the possible consequences of large scale production of spliced-DNA crops and the consumption of spliced-DNA foods often have been based on unsupported suppositions as well as facts with the worst case scenarios based primarily on suppositions. Transgenic crops and their products have been grown and marketed extensively since 1996 without any reported ill effects on human and animal health. In this report, we present an overview of the current thinking on the new biotechnology. Although referencing national and international studies, we focus on the impact and importance of the new biotechnology to Californians.

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