Notice any difference in that apple you bit into? Or the potatoes you’re peeling?

Probably not, but today 12 percent of the crops grown in the world come from plants that were genetically modified. It’s done to protect plants from insects and herbicides and is widely used for soybeans, cotton, maize and canola. But farmers are also growing apples and potatoes that don’t brown as quickly when cut; the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved their sale in 2015.

Now a distinguished group of scientists has concluded that genetically engineered (GE) crops are safe to eat and pose no greater risks to the environment than conventional crops.

New technologies are blurring the once-clear line between genetically engineered crops and conventional breeding. That is why experts from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine convened a panel to weigh the scientific evidence on the pros and cons of genetically engineered crops.

Plants in biotech greenhouse (© AP Images)
U.S. regulators approved engineered Idaho potatoes, shown here growing in a J.R. Simplot greenhouse, as safe to eat. (© AP Images)

Forty percent of genetically engineered crops are grown in the United States; 50 percent in Brazil, Argentina, India and Canada; and 10 percent in 23 other countries.

The experts sought to avoid “sweeping statements” about the benefits and risks of genetically engineered crops while clarifying what has been “a confusing landscape for the public and policymakers.”

After examining almost 900 studies and other publications, the panel found it is safe from a health standpoint to eat foods derived from the crops. But the experts cautioned that any technology — genetic engineering or conventional methods — can change foods in ways that raise safety issues.