John Block: GMOs Are Safe

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block

Hopefully, we are beginning to set the record straight. We have heard so much misleading information criticizing biotechnology that we could go down the European road. In Europe, GE food is not on the plate.

The National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, with more than 60 experts, has released a landmark study which confirms that GE crops are safe for humans and animals to eat. The approach they took to make the case is interesting.

The Committee compared disease reports from the U.S. and Canada with Western Europe and the United Kingdom. The difference is, in the U.S. and Canada we have been eating GE foods for more than 20 years. But in Europe and the U.K., GMOs are not on the table. The review found no long-term pattern of increases in health problems in the U.S. and Canada. So, we are not poisoning ourselves. In fact – no increase in cancer, obesity, kidney disease, autism or allergies, according to the National Academy of Sciences.

This is an opportunity to take the offensive on this issue. More than 50% of Americans think that GE foods are a possible health hazard. Not true. Unfortunately, I don’t expect everyone to buy into this new research. You can expect the producers and marketers of GMO-free products to continue to infer that there just might be some risk. “We better not take a chance.” We have already eaten our weight in GMO food and we didn’t get sick.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association reports that 70% of packaged foods in the U.S. contain GMOs, as does 92% of our corn, 94% of cotton, 94% of soybeans and 99% of sugar beets.

In spite of the science of safety, GMO critics are able to successfully pass state legislation to label GMO foods. Look at Vermont’s law – the label is clearly designed to infer that there is some risk. But, there is more. GE crops are less expensive to grow and give the consumer a better bargain. They require less labor, resist pests, and require less chemicals to kill the weeds.

Hopefully, this new research can help to reassure the doubters.

John Block was Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 1981-1985, where he played a key role in the development of the 1985 Farm Bill.  If you would like to review his radio shows going back more than 20 years, visit

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