GM Free Cymru

EU Report on GM socio-economic impacts is incompetent and biased

REPORT FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND THE COUNCIL on socio-economic implications of GMO cultivation on the basis of Member States contributions, as requested by the Conclusions of the Environment Council of December 2008

SANCO/10715/2011 Rev. 5 (POOL/E1/2011/10715/10715R5-EN.doc)

This brief Report from DG-SANCO and Commissioner Dalli is one of the worst Reports we have ever seen from the Commission. It is incompetent in that it purports to examine socio-economic impacts but really does nothing of the sort, apart from pushing the pretence that all of the impacts of GM cultivation are essentially benign -- in spite of the abundant evidence to the contrary brought to the Commission's attention by member states and NGOs. It is also heavily biased -- and seems to simply be a part of the Commission's on-going campaign to promote the interests of the GM multinationals and to achieve faster and more frequent GM approvals in Europe. It deserves to go straight into the rubbish bin. Below we copy the new GM Freeze press release, and a GM-Free Cymru comment on the Report.

GM Crops and Socio-economics: Dalli document misses all the main points

GM Freeze Press Release 3 May 2011

A working document prepared by EU Commissioner John Dalli [1] on the socio-economic impacts of cultivating GM crops in Europe fails to cover many important negative impacts of GM cultivation and does not to meet Member States’ demand for a full review, according to analysis published today by GM Freeze and Friends of the Earth Europe. [2] The organisations are calling on Members States to reject Dalli’s document Dalli at discussions expected to take place today.

The working document was published by Director General for Health and Consumer Affairs (DG Sanco) on 11 April in response to a request from the Environment Committee in 2008. [3] The EU’s core GM crop regulations also required the Commission to prepare a report on the socio-economics of GM crop cultivation, and also allow such issues to be part of the approval process. [4]

The Commissioner’s report fails to mention any negative impacts of GM crops and instead concentrates on the potential for GM insect resistant maize to increase yield. The analysis of higher yield is based on just one province in Spain (Zaragosa) where GM maize is grown, but fails to point out that in the whole Aragon region there has been a 32% net reduction in GM hectares in the last three years [5], suggesting that farmers were not convinced of the value of planting Bt crops.

The Commissioner’s report was based on responses from the majority of EU Member States to a questionnaire from DG Sanco, despite the fact that only two GM crops can be legally grown in the EU [6], and in 2010 the area they covered was just 0.08% of arable land. [7] Respondents to the DG Sanco questionnaire were not permitted to draw on experience of growing GM crops outside the EU to gather data on the socio- economic effects.

GM Freeze and Friends of the Earth Europe identified a number a major failings and omissions in the document, including that it:

· Lacked political context. · Failed to define what socio-economic impacts could be. · Ignored key issues raised in the responses from Member States. · Delivered a biased interpretation of the European and global socio-economic impacts of these crops.

Amongst the issues ignored by Commissioner Dalli were:

· The costs of GM contamination in the whole food chain. · The costs of monitoring and regulation of GM contamination. · The impacts of increasing dependency for seeds and chemicals on handful of companies. · The potential loss of farmers’ rights to save their own seeds. · The cost increases due to the development of herbicide resistance in weeds in North and South American GM soya, maize and cotton crops.

Pete Riley of GM Freeze said:

“Commissioner Dalli's document is not useful for developing policy and practice for assessing the socio-economic impacts of GM crops. It fails to deliver what the Members States demanded and represents a massive missed opportunity to properly incorporate socio-economic factors into the GM crop approval process. Members States should reject this shoddy piece of work.

“The negative comments about GM crops sent in by Members States have been ignored, as have the problems of contamination and weed resistance all too apparent outside the EU. These omissions indicate that there is in-built pro-GM bias in this document, so it provides very little useful analysis to revise policy on GM crops from a socio- economic perspective.”


Calls to Pete Riley 07903 341 065.


[1] DG Sanco report available at


[2] GM Freeze/FOEE analysis available at .

[3] Council Conclusions on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) 2912th Environment Council meeting, Brussels, 4 December 2008. See .

[4] Articles 7 and 19 of Regulation 1829/2003 foresee the inclusion of ‘other legitimate factors’ for the assessment of GM crops.

[5] Official Spanish Government statistics on the cultivation of Mon810 GM maize.

[6] Two GM crops are approved for cultivation in the EU: Monsanto’s Mon810 maize (insect resistant) and BASF’s starch altered potato (used for industrial starch production and the remaining pulp may be fed to livestock).

[7] For latest analysis of EU GM crop planting trends see .

REPORT FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND THE COUNCIL on socio-economic implications of GMO cultivation on the basis of Member States contributions, as requested by the Conclusions of the Environment Council of December 2008

SANCO/10715/2011 Rev. 5 (POOL/E1/2011/10715/10715R5-EN.doc)

Comment from GM-Free Cymru

This is a lousy Report, full of typical EC bias and spin. It needs to be carefully dissected. I was immediately struck by the total failure to consider the matter of "societal utility" as defined in Norway -- this has to be a key test of whether a GM product should or should not be permitted to enter the food chain. There is also a very bland and incompetent assessment of the ethical, economic and social dimensions to GM production in third countries. The EC appears not to have heard of the scandals surrounding BT cotton growing in India, or the socio-economic effects of growing GM soy in Paraguay and Argentina -- the only things that DG SANCO appears to think are relevant are the "benefits" to large scale farmers and smallholders. I really think that the authors have no conception of what socio- economic impacts really are...... having chosen to turn a blind eye to all of the appalling things happening to communities subject to the activities of the GM multinationals. That is extraordinary, given that this is what the report is supposed to be all about.

Closer to home, I was struck by this section on p 8 of the EC Report:

"Do Europeans buy GMO foods? (CONSUMERCHOICE – 2006-2008)16

The CONSUMERCHOICE project aimed at, inter-alia, comparing the measured attitudes of consumers of 10 Member States towards GM foods and their actual purchasing behaviour when given the opportunity to choose between GM and non-GM food stuff. On this regards, the project found that:

– Responses given by consumers when prompted by questionnaires about GM-food are not a reliable guide to what they do when shopping in grocery stores.

– Europeans buy GM-foods when they are physically present on the shelves."

That last statement seemed to me to be very strange -- implying that people do buy GM food, if given the choice. So I checked back to the said ConsumerChoice Report, produced by our old friend Vivian Moses under a contract placed with King's College London. What we actually find is extended guidance to the GM industry on how to infiltrate GM products onto supermarket shelves without anybody noticing. My conclusion from looking at the data and the discussion is that the EC should have said this: "EUROPEANS BUY GM-FOODS WHEN THEY ARE PHYSICALLY PRESENT ON THE SHELVES, SO LONG AS THEY DO NOT REALISE THAT THEY CONTAIN GM INGREDIENTS."

That's a rather different matter, and we should not accept the EC spin on this. More info on the King's College contract below.

EU Consumer Choice Project 2006-2008



Instrument: 5.4.3 Area: Impact of food on health

Thematic Priority: 5 Food Quality and Safety

Contract period: May 1st, 2006 to October 30th, 2008

Final report

October 14th, 2008

Contractor: King’s College London

Vivian Moses in charge of the UK section of the Report! (Kings College London)

Downloads here:

Report, Ch 17 Discussion and Conclusions, by Vivian Moses

The answer to the question

This project set out to determine whether European consumers bought GM- foods. It is always dangerous to give simple answers to complex questions; any answer to thisone will certainly not encompass all European consumers. Our inquiries have shown much variety in the ten Member States of our study but nevertheless in a broad sense, the answer is “yes – when they have the opportunity”.

This is a big report, with chapters on most of the member states -- Moses seems to have been the coordinator and maybe even the instigator. There's a lot of data in the Report -- but it is very twisted. Over and again you see the Moses spin. It seems to be basically a guide to the food industry on how to infiltrate GM into the food supply system without anybody really noticing it. It does at least give us the "tricks of the trade."

re the Question "Do European Consumers buy GM foods?" -- For Moses to give the answer "Yes -- when they have the opportunity" is incredibly disingenuous. From my reading of the report and the discussion the answer should be "Yes -- as long as you can disguise the fact that they are GM." Labelling is obviously crucial -- GM cooking oil (the only GM product available in the UK) is NOT labelled up-front as a GM product, but instead may have a small note in very small print somewhere on the label. People do not read the small print on the labels when buying bulk cooking oil -- they generally buy the cheapest product. That is really why some caterers etc buy GM cooking oil -- there is no conscious decision to use a GM product in preference to a non-GM one.