Health Panel Affirms the Many Benefits of
Modern Food Biotechnology
New York, NY—September 2000. Physicians and
scientists affiliated with the American Council
on Science and Health (ACSH) assert that
modern biotechnology, as applied to a variety
of crops and foods, presents no inherent
risks to consumers or the environment. Indeed,
they state that these methods will provide
many benefits to consumers, farmers, and
In the second edition of the popular
Biotechnology and Food, ACSH discusses
reviews the basics of modern biotechnology—also
called "gene splicing," "genetic
and "genetic engineering."
author of the report—agricultural molecular
biologist Dr. Alan McHughen of the
of Saskatchewan —explains that modern
provides elegant simplifications of
types of genetic changes that we humans
been introducing into our foods for
"The main difference," notes
Ruth Kava, ACSH director of nutrition,
that the modern processes are much
Instead of transferring hundreds or
thousands of genes with traditional
modern methods allow biologists to
the gene or genes that are known to
the desired effects."
With the advent of modern biotechnology,
farmers can grow crops with "built-in"
pesticides, reducing the need for widespread
spraying. Further, bioengineered crops
provide consumers with cooking oils
have more healthful types of fatty
In the future, farmers may well be
grow crops on lands that were too dry
salty for traditional varieties. Staple
like rice can be enhanced with extra
such as beta-carotene. Such advances
likely just a few years away from widespread
availability, and could go far to reduce
the toll of childhood blindness, malnutrition,
and anemia in some areas of the world.
In the report, Dr. McHughen addresses
of the public's concerns about modern
and shows that they are largely unwarranted.
For example, he notes that fears that
foods are unregulated are baseless.
United States, any new food—produced
or new methods—must be rigorously scrutinized
before it can be marketed to consumers.
must be shown, for example, whether
content or that of naturally occurring
substances is changed. It is important
note that bioengineered crops have
of the North American food supply since
and no adverse effects have been noted
humans, wildlife, or the environment.
Dr. Elizabeth Whelan, ACSH president,
that "Government regulation, consumer
acceptance, and private-sector investment
are all important factors in the future
of foods produced by modern biotechnology."
She added, "It would be tragic
and superstition were allowed to impede
development of this incredibly valuable
A copy of " Biotechnology and Food"
2nd edition may be downloaded fromwww.acsh.org/publications/booklets/biotechnology2000.pdfHard copies are available for $5.00 from
ACSH, 1995 Broadway, Second Floor, New York,
The American Council on Science and
is a consortium of more than 350 scientists
and physicians dedicated to consumer
on public health issues, such as the
nutrition, and pharmaceuticals. ACSH
to illuminate the difference between
health risks and hypothetical or trivial