Call for risk assessment methods around GM crops and herbicides to be revisited

Professor Jack Heinemann, writing at Guest Work, draws attention to new studies published by Nature’s journal, Scientific Reports, which question the basis of how to determine the safety of products used in agriculture and at home.

Guest Work is the Sciblogs guest blog which runs submissions from a wide range of contributors.

Professor Heinemann is a lecturer in genetics at the University of Canterbury.

The first of the featured reports to which he draws attention is on the application of ‘omics’ techniques to a long familiar GM maize line called NK603.

The second is on the application of omics to rats that eat Roundup, one of the glyphosate-based herbicides used on NK603.

Professor Heinemann addresses concerns about glyphosate-based herbicides and the typical counter to these with threats that their elimination would cause greater use of more toxic alternatives.

This threat rings hollow, both because excessive use is leading to resistant weeds that is already driving farmers to use other herbicides, and because it is a false choice.

Let’s not swap glyphosate-based herbicides for those that have different toxic effects, he argues. Rather, let’s use science to reduce the use of herbicides and the products of technology that are dependent upon them.

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