by Jake Anderson
Now used in almost every area of agriculture, many people have suspicions about the safety of genetically modified foods. However, there is very little published research to validate these suspicions. Recent reports suggest that this is not due to the tested safety of GMO seeds and the plants they produce, but rather the stranglehold that Monsanto and other seed companies have on research into the safety of their products.
Why Can’t Scientists Publish Unfavorable GMO Studies?
Many people mistakenly believe that scientists could publish studies that have negative findings about GMOs if these existed. The lack of negative literature is interpreted as a lack of negative effects. However, the absence of evidence is not always evidence of absence.
The reason that Monsanto and other agritech companies must approve all published literature about their products lies in the agreements that must be signed at purchase. Monsanto, Syngenta, and other companies make customers sign an agreement that is intended to protect their patented products. This includes a clause that the products cannot be used in research without the company’s approval. While this clause was originally intended to prevent other companies from discovering trade secrets about the seed, it also prevents impartial third parties from testing their performance, their safety, and their effects on the environment.
Scientists do, of course, gain permission to test agritech products. However, there have been numerous cases where the company withdrew permission and threatened to sue scientists if they attempted to publish any less than favorable findings.
Scientists Punished for Opposing Agritech
Entomologist Elson J. Shields leads a groups of entomologists, or insect scientists, who oppose the stranglehold that Monsanto and other agritech businesses have on GMO research. Shields, who works at Cornell University, has formally asked the Environmental Protection Agency to better regulate GMO companies and especially to regulate whether they can veto research performed on their products. Many scientists that oppose major agritech businesses have had to remain anonymous, for fear of losing their approval to test these companies’ products.
Do GMO Seeds Have the Benefits They Claim?
Not only are scientists prevented from studying the potential harmful effects of GMO seeds, but they cannot study whether these seeds are as effective as companies claim. Agritech companies claim that their genetically modified products require less resources, less space, and less pesticides. Genetically modified products, they claim, are the only way to feed a huge and growing population. However, there are no ways to test these claims. Monsanto and other agritech companies will not approve research that takes a critical look at these claims. Even if they did approve the research, they would be able to veto any unsatisfactory results.
With GMO products on every grocery store shelf, it is becoming increasingly important for people to understand how these foods are affecting both the human body and the environment. However, there is no way of knowing whether GMO seeds are safe due to the corporate silencing of the scientific community. Until the Environmental Protection Agency takes action to allow free research and free speech, any study that does not speak glowingly of genetically modified seeds will be unpublishable.