The technology to produce genetically engineered (GE) plants is celebrating its 30th anniversary and one of the major achievements has been the development of GE crops. The safety of GE crops is crucial for their adoption and has been the object of intense research work often ignored in the public debate. We have reviewed the scientific literature on GE crop safety during the last 10 years, built a classified and manageable list of scientific papers, and analyzed the distribution and composition of the published literature. We selected original research papers, reviews, relevant opinions and reports addressing all the major issues that emerged in the debate on GE crops, trying to catch the scientific consensus that has matured since GE plants became widely cultivated worldwide.
The scientific research conducted so far has not detected any significant hazards directly connected with the use of GE crops; however, the debate is still intense. An improvement in the efficacy of scientific communication could have a significant impact on the future of agricultural GE. Our collection of scientific records is available to researchers, communicators and teachers at all levels to help create an informed, balanced public perception on the important issue of GE use in agriculture…
The safety of GE crops is crucial for their adoption and has been the object of intense research work. The literature produced over the years on GE crop safety is large (31 848 records up to 2006…) and it started to accumulate even before the introduction of the first GE crop in 1996. The dilution of research reports with a large number of commentary papers, their publication in journals with low impact factor and their multidisciplinary nature have been regarded as negative factors affecting the visibility of GE crop safety research…
We built a classified and manageable list of scientific papers on GE crop safety and analyzed the distribution and composition of the literature published from 2002 to October 2012. The online databases PubMed and ISI Web of Science were interrogated to retrieve the pertinent scientific records… We selected original research papers, reviews, relevant opinions and reports addressing all the major issues that emerged in the debate on GE crops. The 1783 scientific records collected are provided in .xls and .ris file formats accessible through the common worksheet programs… Beyond a numerical analysis of the literature, we provide a short explanatory summary of each issue.
The technology to produce GE plants is celebrating its 30th anniversary… but the adoption of GE plants in the agricultural system has raised issues about environmental and food/feed safety. We have reviewed the scientific literature on GE crop safety for the last 10 years that catches the scientific consensus matured since GE plants became widely cultivated worldwide, and we can conclude that the scientific research conducted so far has not detected any significant hazard directly connected with the use of GM crops… the public opposition to field trials, may have discouraged researchers, at least in the EU.
The literature about Biodiversity and the GE food/feed consumption has sometimes resulted in animated debate regarding the suitability of the experimental designs, the choice of the statistical methods or the public accessibility of data. Such debate, even if positive and part of the natural process of review by the scientific community, has frequently been distorted by the media and often used politically and inappropriately in anti-GE crops campaigns… when dealing with ‘‘hot issues’’, researchers should take special care in following rigorous scientific standards, avoiding the publication of data not sufficiently peer reviewed by the scientific community.
In the EU, the regulatory burdens for GE crop approval are extremely heavy… de facto excluding the public sector and minor crops from the development of GE technology. As a result, the number of experimental releases of GE crops is rapidly decreasing… and even large companies are abandoning GE… This scenario is the result of the interaction of complex sociological and psychological factors, risk/benefit ratios, political aspects and an unbalanced scientific communication.
All these factors have to be considered globally and taken into account in a constructive debate on whether the GE crops represent a strategic resource for the future. An improvement in the efficacy of the scientific communication to stakeholders, as clearly demonstrated in the case of the recent case of GE wheat field trials in the UK… could have a significant impact on the future of agricultural GE.
We believe that genetic engineering and GE crops should be considered important options in the efforts toward sustainable agricultural production. Our collection of scientific records is available to researchers, communicators and teachers at all levels to help create an informed and balanced public perception on the hot issue of GE use in agriculture.