GM Free Cymru

Open Letter: EFSA's rebuttal unit and the Seralini research

President Jose-Manuel Barroso European Commission Brussels

cc Commissioner John Dalli

9th October 2012

Dear Mr Barroso

EFSA's rebuttal unit and the Seralini research

You are aware of the recent publication of a peer-reviewed paper by Professor Gilles-Eric Seralini and colleagues which demonstrated serious chronic toxic effects on rats fed with small quantities of GM maize NK603 in their diets, and minute traces of Roundup in their drinking water. As soon as it was published, it was widely recognized that the research had very serious implications for public health; and on that basis we congratulate the Commission for requesting an urgent review of the paper by EFSA. We had our doubts about the wisdom of asking for an EFSA "opinion" -- but assumed that the organization would be able to undertake an impartial assessment of the work and to recommend a course of action to the Commission.

What has emerged in the last few days is deeply shocking. Far from seeking the views of impartial and independent scientists, EFSA slipped immediately into "rebuttal" mode, appointing a "multidisciplinary task force" made up of the very officials who have been writing positive GM opinions for years, led by Per Bergman.There was no way that this team could afford to find any merit at all in the Seralini study, for to have done so would have involved an admission to serious shortcomings in the GM assessment process over the past decade or more.

More seriously, we know from the minutes of a teleconference held on 28 September (1) that EFSA has tried, from the beginning, to orchestrate a pan-European response to the Seralini paper by heading off dissent and agreeing a set of criticisms of the paper -- many of which are frankly absurd (2). It has consulted with representatives of four member states (France, Germany, Netherlands and Belgium) while apparently remaining unconcerned about scientific responses from those member states which have serious doubts about the safety of GM crops and foods. This "orchestration" and shaping of orthodox scientific opinion is deeply disturbing, for it involves both scientific corruption and a conspiracy to suppress honest science. In short, Professor Seralini and his colleagues are being portrayed as scientific heretics or mavericks who are either incompetent or dishonest.

And more seriously still, the man who was asked to "front up" this rebuttal unit was none other than Andrew Chesson -- who was instrumental in giving the "green light" to NK603 in 2003, and who was personally implicated in the vicious campaign against Arpad Pusztai in 1998 which led to him being dismissed and gagged -- simply because he found toxic effects associated with the consumption of GM potatoes. Even more amazingly, Andrew Chesson agreed to take on this role, sweeping away in an instant any pretence that the EFSA review might be scientifically sound and impartial.

We now have to conclude that EFSA is an organization which is completely out of control. It appears to have no awareness of scientific ethics, no awareness of public concerns or sensibilities, and an unquenchable belief in its own inviolability and infallibility. Further, we have to conclude that EFSA's GMO panel has simply become an arm of the GM industry, defending the safety of GM products no matter what evidence is staring it in the face, and even orchestrating a grubby little campaign of its own which is designed to destroy the scientific reputations of Professor Seralini and his colleagues.

As we have pointed out before, EFSA is acting in a manner which is criminally irresponsible, since it is again placing the interests of the GM industry and the careers of its own officials above the health of the people of Europe. Please will you take immediate strong action to stop this abuse at its heart? At the very least, we request the removal of Catherine Geslain-Lanéelle, who has allowed this appalling situation to develop (3). Then we request an immediate moratorium on all GM consents pending a full investigation of the Seralini findings and a repeat of his experiments. And finally we request the winding up of the GMO Panel, which has connived since the setting up of EFSA in the wilful promotion of the interests of the GM industry and the abandonment of the Precautionary Principle.

We look forward to hearing from you regarding the action which you now propose to take.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Brian John on behalf of GM-Free Cymru



(2) Questionable Biosafety of GMOs, Double Standards and, Once Again, a "Shooting-the-Messenger" Style Debate ENSSER Statement on Seralini et al. (2012) publication and reactions evoked

(3) This is typical of her comments to the press: