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Safety of Genetically Engineered Foods: Approaches to Assessing Unintended Health Effects
effects have not been identified as a result of genetic engineering techniques used in food production. This may be because developers of bioengineered organisms perform extensive compositional analyses to determine that each phenotype is desirable and to ensure that unintended changes have not occurred in key components of food.
Improvement in currently available methods for identifying and assessing unintended compositional changes in food could further enhance the ability of product developers and regulators to perform appropriate testing to assure the safety of food. Whether all such analyses are warranted and are the most appropriate methods for discovering unintended changes in food composition that may have human health consequences remains to be determined.
Scientific advances in agricultural biotechnology continue to improve our understanding of plant crops, microorganisms, and food-animal genetics. Nevertheless, the public health system continues to face many questions about the impact of agricultural biotechnology on human health. As a result of these new scientific advances and public concern about the potential for unintended compositional changes in genetically engineered food that might in turn result in unintended health effects, the National Academies convened this committee to explore the similarities and differences between genetic engineering and other genetic modifications, including conventional breeding practices, with respect to the frequency and nature of unintended effects associated with them—in particular with regard to potential changes in the biochemical composition of plant- and animal-derived foods and methods that would be most useful in assessing the occurrences of unintended changes that might affect consumer health.
The Committee on Identifying and Assessing Unintended Effects of Genetically Engineered Foods on Human Health was aided in its challenging tasks by the invaluable contributions of a number of individuals. First and foremost, many thanks are due to the committee members who volunteered countless hours to the research, deliberations, and preparation of the report. Their dedication to this project and to a stringent time-line was commendable and was the foundation of our success.
Many individuals volunteered significant time and effort to address and educate our committee members during the workshops. Additionally, the committee wishes to acknowledge the invaluable contributions of the study staff: Ann Yaktine, senior program officer and study director; Michael Kisielewski, research assistant; and Sybil Boggis, senior project assistant. The committee also acknowledges other staff members who contributed to the development and initial conduct of this study: Jennifer Kuzma, study director until September 2002; Abigail Stack, study director until February 2003; and Tamara Dawes, project assistant until February 2003. This collaborative project benefited from the general guid-