This is the second of a two-part series (I posted the first one here) on the use of genetically altered products that have flooded the market and their lack of adequate safety testing before entering the market. I had wrongly expected a political explanation for this phenomenon. However Latham is a biological scientist and he examines the issue purely from a scientific perspective. In this article he lays out a clear scientific argument that corporations should not be allowed to place genetically modified products on the market simply because they cannot be adequately tested.
In this article he examines two contrasting extremes of products that are tested and studied by government regulatory agencies. At one extreme tests regarding passenger airplanes can be, and are, tested thoroughly before they are permitted to be marketed, but at the other extreme lies GMO products whose potential deleterious effects are very complex and cannot be adequately tested, but sail through the regulatory process with little difficulty. In a prior article of his, he offers a better explanation that points to the interests of corporations.
Some of my concerns with GMOs are “just” practical ones. I have read numerous GMO risk assessment applications. These are the documents that governments rely on to ‘prove’ their safety. Though these documents are quite long and quite complex, their length is misleading in that they primarily ask (and answer) trivial questions. Furthermore, the experiments described within them are often very inadequate and sloppily executed. Scientific controls are often missing, procedures and reagents are badly described, and the results are often ambiguous or uninterpretable. I do not believe that this ambiguity and apparent incompetence is accidental. It is common, for example, for multinational corporations, whose labs have the latest equipment, to use outdated methodologies. When the results show what the applicants want, nothing is said. But when the results are inconvenient, and raise red flags, they blame the limitations of the antiquated method. This bulletproof logic, in which applicants claim safety no matter what the data shows, or how badly the experiment was performed, is routine in formal GMO risk assessment.Of course, people hired to supervise government regulatory agencies, like every other institutional unit of our society, are selected based on their motivation to serve the profit and power interests of the ruling capitalist class. (That is precisely why Trump appointed Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency.) Such regulatory agents ignore the impossibility of adequately testing such products, so they have such products go through some slipshod process anyway for the sake of appearances to sooth the safely concerns of the public.
To any honest observer, reading these applications is bound to raise profound and disturbing questions: about the trustworthiness of the applicants and equally of the regulators. They are impossible to reconcile with a functional regulatory system capable of protecting the public.