Source: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry

According to a paper in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, it may be time to re- think the use of compositional equivalence studies required of GM crop developers by regulatory regimes globally because unintended compositional effects that could be caused by genetic modification have not materialised. Following a review of 20 years of literature on the subject, the authors argue that compositional equivalence studies uniquely required for GM crops may no longer be justified on the basis of scientific uncertainty.

Since 1993, investigating the compositional equivalence between GM crops and their conventional counterpart has been the cornerstone of the safety evaluation of GM crops and it is designed to investigate any unintended effects of introducing new genetic material into a plant using biotechnology.

This testing, according to the authors, was based on uncertainty as to the frequency and magnitude of alterations that might occur due to the modification process.

Since they began regulating the safety of GM crops, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found all of the 148 GM crops they evaluated to be “substantially equivalent” to their conventional counterparts as have the Japanese regulators for 189 submissions. Over 80 peer-reviewed publications also conclude this same compositional safety for GM crops. These studies have covered the full range of GM crops – from soybean, canola and cotton, to tomato, potato and raspberry – and the full range of modifications.

“Our assessment is that there appears to be overwhelming evidence that transgenesis [genetic modification] is less disruptive of crop composition compared with traditional breeding, which itself has a tremendous history of safety.”

The authors question whether the millions of dollars spent each year on compositional studies for GM crops can be justified. According to the paper, expanding regulatory requirements have increased compositional study costs over 10-fold, from approximately US$100,000 per study, to over US $1 million per study.

In conclusion, they state, “The merits of continuing to generally require compositional analysis of GM crops to inform safety seems dubious given the results of 20 years of research, and if agreement can be reached that these studies are no longer warranted, use of this technology will become accessible to a wider array of scientists.”