GM Free Cymru

EC admits to doubts about the safety of GM crops and foods

Press Notice 2nd March 2005

Environmental and consumer groups concerned about the safety of GM crops and foods have been amazed by revelations over the past few days (1) that the EC now has major concerns about the safety and environmental hazards associated with GM crops and foods. These concerns have been kept under wraps thus far while the Commission has actively promoted the merits of GM technology.

The revelations have come as a result of determined work by FoE Europe in following the twists and turns of the WTO case brought by the United States, Canada and Argentina against the EU. FoE says that the Commission is admitting to significant and legitimate scientific concerns about the safety of GM foods and crops. The environment campaign group accuses the EC of putting the health of the public and the environment at risk from its inconsistent policy by forcing new GM products onto the European market despite these concerns. It has also taken a complaint to the European Ombudsman relating to the refusal of the EC to allow public access to its "Second Submission" made to the Dispute Panel in August 2004. This Submission has now been considered by scientists and politicians at the final meeting of the Panel in Geneva on 21st and 22nd February 2005.

It is now known that in its Second Submission (1) the European Commission admits that:
* The science on GMOs is constantly evolving and that "new risk considerations sometimes arise spontaneously and change the scope of the risk assessment"
* Concerns about antibiotic resistant genes and secondary effects on beneficial insects are "legitimate scientific concerns"
* Member states should be able to determine their own level of protection

Commenting on the new revelations, GM Free Cymru spokesman Dr Brian John said: "We can now see that the EC attitude to GM is shot through with hypocrisy and disregard for the health and safety of the people of Europe. The first signs of doubt concerning the human and environmental risks associated with GMOs came with the First Submission to the WTO Dispute Panel (2), but we now know that by August 2004 -- more than six months ago -- those doubts had become firmed up into real concerns, expressed in writing. But in spite of this the EC has continued to push GM crops and foods onto a reluctant European public. For example, in October 2004 the Commission approved the import of Monsanto NK603 maize despite the fact that EU members failed to reach a qualified (or even simple) majority as to its safety. And in November 2004 the Commission tried to force various member states to lift their "de facto bans" on GM crop plantings. In the event, the member states flexed their muscles and failed to support the Commission proposals. To call the Commission's actions hypocritical and two-faced would be to put it mildly. It would be more appropriate to say that it has been criminally negligent."



Brian John
GM Free Cymru
Tel 01239 - 820470


(1) GM WATCH daily
Leaked documents reveal EU arguments at the WTO

(2) ".....In its First Submission to the WTO panel the Commission argued in detail (against the US) that there are still unanswered questions with regard to the human and environmental risks associated with GMOs. For example, the EC highlighted that "The state of scientific knowledge and understanding on the assessment of toxicity is
limited and subject to considerable debate" (para 42 page 15), and that "specific Bt toxins are thought to have adverse effects on non target organisms, namely insects which are not pest of crops, birds, or microflora/microfauna" (paragraph 53 p.19). It is therefore of considerable public importance to know what the Commission is
saying in its Second Submission. It is clear that the Commission is seeking to promote public acceptance of new GM foods whilst at the same time seeking to argue behind closed doors that our knowledge and understanding about the safety of these products is limited." (From the case brought to the European Ombudsman by FoE against the EC, 16th February 2005)