- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 24, 2001

Individuals who believe that the movie, "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes" is a documentary for what will happen if genetically modified foods are ever allowed to run wild, in well, the wild, should be relieved by the findings of a study recently published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature, which convincingly demonstrates exactly the opposite.

In what some have called the "longest-term ever" study of its sort, researchers examined the ability of genetically modified foods to spread out from their agrarian habitat and persist in the wild, while controlling for the ability of non-genetically modified foods to do the same thing. They studied crops of potatoes, maize, sugar beet and rape seed which had been modified to be resistant to insects and/or herbicides in 12 disparate habitats for a full decade.

Their conclusion? "In no case were the genetically modified plants found to be more invasive or more persistent than their conventional counterparts." In other words, no super weeds, no killer tomatoes, no little shop of horrors.

Moreover, "increased competition from native perennial plants" (read "crabgrass") caused decreases in the numbers of genetically modified plants. In some cases, the genetically modified strains were actually wiped out.

This study is simply the latest study in an unremitting stream of evidence that has all demonstrated the same thing: Genetically engineered foods are almost certainly not harmful, and they are almost certainly beneficial.

Unfortunately, the seeds of evidence contained in the study appear to have little potential for growth in the hard heads of environmental extremists who made up their minds long ago. Julie Miles, "co-coordinator" of the Genetically Engineered Food Alert, suggested that despite this new evidence, her organization would be unlikely to change its stance on such foods. This shouldn't come as a surprise, since the organization proclaims "Genetically engineered food ingredients or crops should not be allowed on the market unless: Independent safety testing demonstrates they have no harmful effects on human health or the environment." Of course, evidence from this latest study suggests that the opposite might be true, that the environment might be harmful to genetically modified foods, but no matter.

In the end, a 10-year, a 20-year, or even a 1,000-year safety study of every genetically modified food under all possible conditions seems unlikely to quash the qualms of such matrons of the nanny state, who insist that everything be safe, or at least not sound frightening or icky.

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