of unintended health effects encompass both targeted and profiling approaches, using a range of toxicological, metabolic, and epidemiological sciences. Encom-passing both of these approaches exploits what is known and increases the ability to prevent and assess unsuspected consequences.

Current safety assessments in the premarket period prior to commercialization focus on comparing the GE food with its conventional counterpart to identify uniquely different components. Typically, these comparisons are made on the basis of proximate analysis—an analytical determinant of major classes of food components—as well as nutritional components, toxins, toxicants, antinutrients, and any other characterizing components. The ideal comparator, in most cases, is a near-isogenic variety of food, genetically identical except for the presence of the novel trait, or a near-isogenic parental variety of food from which the GE variety was derived.

In addition to compositional comparisons, agronomic comparisons have been routinely conducted as part of the line selection phase in the development of GE crops. However, these comparisons of phenotypic expression tend to be superficial and could easily miss some varieties containing altered compositions that could impact adversely on human health.

Animal feeding trials are also used to compare the nutritional qualities of a GE crop with its conventional counterpart. Any adverse effects on the health of the animals indicate the possible existence of unexpected alterations in the GE crop that could adversely affect human health, if consumed.

Postmarketing surveillance is an approach to verify premarket screening for unanticipated adverse health consequences from the consumption of GE food. Although postmarketing surveillance has not been used to evaluate any of the GE crops that are currently on the market and there are challenges to its use, this approach holds promise in monitoring potential effects, anticipated and unanticipated, of GE foods that are not substantially equivalent to their conventional counterparts or that contain significantly altered nutritional and compositional profiles.


The committee developed a framework for a model system based on methods to identify appropriate comparators; increase the knowledge of the determinants of compositional variability; increase the understanding of the biological effects of secondary metabolites in foods; develop more sensitive tools for assessing potential unintended effects from complex mixtures; and improve methods for tracing exposure to GM foods.

The framework, illustrated in a flowchart (Figure ES-2), was used to examine, identify, and evaluate systematically the unintended compositional changes and health effects of GM and, specifically, GE foods. By raising the appropriate questions in this systematic flowchart, the committee has provided a guide for

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement