On the heels of the USDA's deregulation of the Arctic apple -- the first genetically engineered apple -- consumer and food safety groups say there still is no proof genetically modified foods are safe for human or animal consumption.

The groups, including Consumers Union, Center for Food Safety, Friends of the Earth and Pesticide Action Network, pointed to a January 24 article in the journal Environmental Sciences Europe that says there is no scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs.

Last week, the USDA allowed British Columbia, Canada-based Okanagan Specialty Fruits, the developer of the Arctic apple, to distribute the genetically modified product without labeling to the public. The Arctic apple - in Granny Smith and Golden Delicious varieties- is heading to market.  Fuji and Gala versions of the Arctic apple are soon to be released.

The Arctic apple was scientifically enhanced so that it does not turn brown when sliced, and also so it does not bruise.

"This product is completely unnecessary and poses numerous risks to apple growers, the food industry and consumers," said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director for Center for Food Safety. "For USDA to turn a blind eye to these risks for such an inessential technological 'advance' is foolish and potentially costly."

The article published in Environmental Sciences Europe is signed by 300 scientists, physicians and scholars. It says the GMO safety claim is "an artificial construct that has been falsely perpetuated." 

"Preeminent science bodies like the National Research Council have recognized that some engineered foods could pose considerable risk," said Doug Gurian-Sherman, PhD, senior scientist and director of sustainable agriculture at the Center for Food Safety. "It is widely recognized by scientists that those risks depend on the particular engineered gene and crop. It is unfortunate that self-appointed advocates for the technology have selectively cited the literature and organizations to suggest that GE crops, generally, present no risks that warrant concern."

In addition, Michael Hansen, PhD, senior scientist at Consumers Union said: "Not one independent, public safety study has been carried out on the Arctic® apple, and yet some media stories have reported it is 'safe.' We call on the press to accurately report on the science of GMOs, particularly the health and environmental concerns raised by scientists and the lack of required safety studies that leave questions about the safety of genetically engineered foods."

The article, "No scientific consensus on GMO safety," does not take a position on whether GMOs are unsafe or safe. However, it cites the concerted effort by GMO seed developers and some scientists, commentators and journalists to construct the claim that there is a "scientific consensus" on GMO safety, and that debate on the topic is "over."  The statement raises the following points in objection to the consensus of safety claim:

There is no consensus in the science. A comprehensive review of peer-reviewed animal feeding studies of GMOs found roughly an equal number of research groups raising concerns about genetically engineered foods and those suggesting GMOs were as safe and nutritious as conventional foods. The review also found that most studies finding GMOs foods the same as conventional foods were performed by biotechnology companies or their associates.

The report says: "Over recent years, a number of scientific research articles have been published that report disturbing results from genetically modified organism feeding experiments with different mammals. In addition to the usual fierce responses, these have elicited a concerted effort by genetically modified seed developers and some scientists, commentators, and journalists to construct claims that there is a 'scientific consensus' on GMO safety and that the debate on this topic is 'over.'" 

The review also found that most studies concluding that GM foods were as safe and nutritious as those obtained by conventional breeding were "performed by biotechnology companies or associates, which are also responsible [for] commercializing these GM plants."