Another Look in the Field: More on GM Plant Safety

In the regular media barrage against GM plant use in agriculture, there is still some science being applied to answer consumer concerns and questions. I recently came across an article by Madeline Fisher writing for the Crop Science Society of America entitled “A new approach to detecting unintended changes in GM foods” where she relates research published by corresponding author Dr. Owen Hoekenga with Cornell University (https://www.crops.org/science-news/new-approach-detecting-changes-gm-foods). The original article was published in Plant Genome (DiLeo, M.V., M. den Bakker, E.Y. Chu, and O.A. Hoekenga, 2014, An assessment of the relative influences of genetic background, functional diversity at major regulatory genes, and transgenic constructs on the tomato fruit metabolome. Plant Genome 7:1-16 (https://www.crops.org/publications/tpg/pdfs/7/1/plantgenome2013.06.0021). In this research they looked at GM tomato and non-GM tomato to determine if nutritional differences could be identified between the two groups. The genotypes represented in the study were fairly diverse including modern breeding lines, commercially important and now obsolete varieties, and vintage or heirloom varieties (usually older lines that allow you to save your own seed). 

The researchers examined 1,073 metabolites (compounds produced by the plant and extracted from the fruit in this study) in the first year of the project and 992 metabolites in the second year. In their study, they found a few differences in the metabolic profile of these two groups concerning those impacting fruit ripening. This result was to be expected as the first GM tomatoes and those tested had genetic modifications that affect the fruit ripening process for improved transportability of the fruit before retail. No significant difference other than fruit ripening was distinguished between the transgenic material and the non-transgenic parent. These scientists also reported no other significant differences between these two groups in terms of nutritional quality. These results verify what the FDA also determined through some of the testing it already requires in GM plants prior to their release for production.

What does this mean to us as soybean producers? This published research continues to provide further evidence that GM crops are part of sound, safe food production by American farmers and will strengthen your conversations with others concerning the crops you grow. Another point made by these scientists is that this technique of evaluating differences between GM and non-GM plants or fruits of a kind (in this case tomato) has direct application to other crops to evaluate them for any significant nutritional and safety concerns. Sound science continues to demonstrate that farmers produce safe, high-quality foods for people and livestock as well. Continue to strengthen your understanding for whenever you are questioned about the crops you grow and read as much as you can.