While many studies show that genetically modified crops contribute to yield gains, GMO critics say that they don’t. Such claims, they say, are industry talking points drawn from industry-funded studies.
Most recently and notably, The New York Times’ Danny Hakim asserted in a 2016 front-page analysis that “genetic modification in the United States and Canada has not accelerated increases in crop yields.”
Organic food advocates, from Michael Pollan to the Environmental Working Group, often cite media articles or single studies, as well as unpublished reports from groups such as the Union of Concerned Scientists, to back up similar views, A widely disseminated ‘white paper’ written in 2009 and still on the UCS website titled “Failure to Yield” claims, “For years the biotechnology industry has trumpeted that it will feed the world, promising that its genetically engineered crops will produce higher yields. That promise has proven to be empty.”
But scientists know better than to draw definitive conclusions from such sources.
Instead, they look at the results of many peer-reviewed scientific studies. One way that they do this is through what are called meta-analyses, which sort through hundreds or thousands of studies to separate the signal from the noise and draw surer conclusions from scientific data.
That’s exactly what a group of Italian researchers has done in a new meta-study that compared GMO corn with conventional varieties.
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The analysis of over 6,000 peer-reviewed studies covering 21 years of data found that GMO corn increased yields up to 25 percent and dramatically decreased dangerous food contaminants. The study, published in Scientific Reports, analyzed field data from 1996, when the first GMO corn was planted, through 2016 in the United States, Europe, South America, Asia, Africa and Australia.
The researchers’ key findings:
- GMO corn varieties increased crop yields 5.6 to 24.5 percent relative to their non-GMO equivalents
- GMO corn crops had lower percentages of mycotoxins (-28.8 percent), fumonisins (-30.6 percent) and thricotecens (−36.5 percent), all of which can lead to economic losses and harm human and animal health
The study also reaffirmed the scientific consensus that genetically modified corn does not pose risks to human health.
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