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Potential Conflicts-of-Interest Run Rampant on GMO Safety Panel, New York Times Investigation Reveals

By On December 30, 2016

 

Monsanto and the biotechnology industry strongly contends that its genetically engineered crops are among the most tested in history, while opponents insist that they have not been proven safe.

So, which side can we really believe?

While Monsanto spends millions on public relations to push its narrative which includes the “safety” of GMOs, those who question it continually point to conflicts-of-interest within the government and its associated organizations. Now, a new New York Times investigation is shedding light on exactly how such situations arise.

National Biotechnology Panel Faces New Questions

As noted in the new report titled ‘National Biotechnology Panel Faces New Conflict-of-Interest Questions’ by the Times, there are plenty of reasons to question whether the panel, which was created by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, will be fair and honest when it comes to GMOs and their associated synthetic chemicals moving forward.

The Times investigation found the following:

-9 potenital conflicts-of-interest on the panel among members

-2 of 13 scientists had ties to the Biotechnology industry, which violated the panel’s conflict-of-interest policy yet they were appointed anyway

-An employee who picked the panelists recently took a new job with a Biotechnology non-profit, and 5 of the 13 people he recommended worked for his new, pro-GMO company; all were selected for the safety panel

These are just some of the questionable aspects of the panel uncovered by the investigation (which can be read in full here and includes a chart of the employees and their potential conflicts-of-interest).

The academies defended their panel selections by saying that the type of expertise needed to study such crops can only be obtained by bringing aboard people who have ties to the Biotechnology industry.

The panel was formed this year, and also produced a report in May that was criticized by environmentalists. Its purpose is to study what new technologies might arise over the 15 years and how they should be regulated by the U.S. government.

Activists contend that such technologies are being brought to market with little or no oversight, and that such conflict-of-interest situations are a big part of the reason.

For example, a new genetically engineered apple with “silenced browning genes” recently hit the market (in small amounts, mostly in the western U.S.) without labeling and without independent, pre-market safety testing. Despite many thousands of signatures against the apple and safety concerns, it was still approved, meaning that humans will be the first long-term test subjects.

Moving forward, more and more GE technologies like the apple and others will be up for approval. And with so much money to be made, it’s easy to understand why environmental and health groups, as well as activists in general, are so concerned about conflicts-of-interest like those described in the Times.

For more on why the panel has the potential for serious bias, check out the full report by clicking here.