The World Health Organisation (WHO) takes an active role in relation to GM foods, primarily for two reasons:
• on the grounds that public health could benefit enormously from the potential of biotechnology, for example, from an increase in the nutrient content of foods, decreased allergenicity and more efficient food production; and
• based on the need to examine the potential negative effects on human health of the consumption of food produced through genetic modification, also at the global level. It is clear that modern technologies must be thoroughly evaluated if they are to constitute a true improvement in the way food is produced. Such evaluations must be holistic and all-inclusive, and cannot stop at the previously separated, non-coherent systems of evaluation focusing solely on human health or environmental effects in isolation.
The WHO website presents simplified answers on 20 of most commonly asked questions about GM foods. It also presents additional resources including General information on Biotechnology and Nanotechnology.
WHO’s 20 questions on genetically modified foods [click on the link to read the answers]
Q1. What are GM foods?
Q2. Why are GM foods produced?
Q3. Are GM foods assessed differently from traditional foods?
Q4. How are the potential risks to human health determined?
Q5. What are the main issues of concern for human health?
Q6. How is a risk assessment for the environment performed?
Q7. What are the issues of concern for the environment?
Q8. Are GM foods safe?
Q9. How are GM foods regulated nationally?
Q10. What kind of GM foods are on the market internationally?
Q11. What happens when GM foods are traded internationally?
Q12. Have GM products on the international market passed a risk assessment?
Q13. Why has there been concern about GM foods among some politicians, public interest groups and consumers, especially in Europe?
Q14. How has this concern affected the marketing of GM foods in the European Union?
Q15. What is the state of public debate on GM foods in other regions of the world?
Q16. Are people’s reactions related to the different attitudes to food in various regions of the world?
Q17. Are there implications for the rights of farmers to own their crops?
Q18. Why are certain groups concerned about the growing influence of the chemical industry on agriculture?
Q19. What further developments can be expected in the area of GMOs?
Q20. What is WHO doing to improve the evaluation of GM foods?