When discussing transgenic crops, I regularly get asked to provide a paper that “proves” that GMOs are safe. Whether you want proof that biotech crops, organic bananas, or conventional peaches are safe, I cannot provide you with such a paper. Safety is a relative term and is generally defined as the absence of risk or harm. As such, asking for proof of safety is, in essence, asking someone for proof of the absence of risk. The risk of what ever is being evaluated is measured in relation to other options, not against a theoretic idea of “perfectly safe”. Relative risk is scientifically determined by examining the evidence at hand: experiments are performed to determine the impact of a substance on health, environment, etc and the data from these experiments are assessed to determine if the substance causes harm.
Scientifically, nothing is truly 100% safe. To explain why, we’re going to do an exercise and try to prove that water is safe. The first thing to keep in mind is that there are many aspects to water safety: impact on health, water transportation, water treatment, proper water storage, etc. For our example, we’re going to select “impact on health”. Continue reading.