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Rt Hon Peter Mandelson PC
Trade Commissioner
European Commission 3rd November 2005

Dear Mr Mandelson

Complaint re: Commission Approvals for GM Crops and Foods

We wrote to you on two separate matters on 3rd October, and received no acknowledgement or reply from you. We wrote again on 18th October -- and still received no acknowledgement or reply. We are aware that your code of practice requires you to reply to letters within 15 working days.

A month has now passed, and far from heeding any of the points made in our communications you and your colleagues in the Commission have today cynically issued yet another authorisation -- for GM maize line 1507. Do you pay any attention to the points raised by concerned members of the public and NGOs on the matter of GM authorisations? Do you indeed read any of the communications which you receive? We know that you are a busy man, but we are busy too, and we have every right to expect at least a minimal level of courtesy from you, as one of the Commissioners charged with looking after our interests.

We are staggered yet again by the extraordinary approval which you have given today to GM maize line 1507, in the face of widespread criticism from member states and from groups like FoE Europe of the inadequate and indeed complacent advice offered to you by the GMO Panel of EFSA. We remind you, not for the first time, that you are not bound to accept EFSA advice. The shortcomings of the EFSA position on maize 1507 are mentioned briefly here: (FoE Comments on 1507 maize)

Today's decision is yet another confirmation that the Commission has abandoned the precautionary principle and has also abandoned any consideration of scientific opinions coming from truly independent sources (You will be aware that almost all of the science considered by the GMO Panel comes from the GM multinationals who are seeking authorizations; by definition this science is not objective, and at the very least it is selective and self-serving.) Until the EFSA is reformed and forced to operate in a manner which more truly safeguards the interests of consumers, the Commission should give NO further consents for GMOs.

We are now going to the complaints procedure in view of the fact that you are apparently not interested in addressing the points which we make.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Brian john
GM Free Cymru

18 October 2005

Dear Mr Mandelson

We sent this letter, and another one asking specific questions, on 3rd October. These letters refer to matters of great importance to EU consumers. We have received no acknowledgements that you have received the letters, let alone considered replies, although more than two weeks have now passed.

We will appreciate it if you will give these matters your attention and respond in the near future.

Yours sincerely

Dr Brian John
GM Free Cymru

Rt Hon Peter Mandelson PC
Trade Commissioner
European Commission 3rd October 2005

Dear Mr Mandelson

Commission Approvals for GM Crops and Foods

We are writing to you, as our UK Commissioner, to express our grave concern at the manner in which the Commission is now issuing approvals for GM crops and feedstuffs which have never been proved to be environmentally safe or harmless to human beings and animals (1). We believe that your actions in "releasing" these GM varieties into the environment and food chain are unlawful according to the terms of Directive 2002/18/EC. You may or may not be aware that your approvals are based largely upon an acceptance by EFSA of the scientifically nonsensical concept of "substantial equivalence". That body should be thoroughly ashamed of itself, and so should the Commission (2) (3).

We remind you that these authorizations -- for GT73 oilseed rape, MON863 maize, and NK603 maize-- have been issued by you and your fellow Commissioners following failures to agree among the representatives of the EU member states. In such circumstances, and in recognition of considerable doubt in the minds of national representatives about the safety of these GM varieties, the Commission should by law have invoke the precautionary principle, as required by Directive 2001/18/EC. Approvals should not have been issued. The Commission should have continued to withhold consent until the removal of all reasonable doubt with respect to each of these varieties, following submission of hard evidence by the applicants and consideration of other evidence (for example from the UK farm-scale trials). This action would have been entirely lawful. We further remind you that (in spite of what you may pretend) there is no requirement placed upon you to accept the recommendations of the discredited GMO panel of EFSA (4)

Instead of following your own law, you have now cynically issued three authorizations which are clearly against the wishes of the great majority of EU consumers and which are designed (not to put too fine a point on it) to keep the Americans happy. Your consents have been issued on the basis of political convenience rather than upon environmental / safety grounds, and for this reason we accuse you of abandoning your duty of care to European consumers. Further, it is utterly dishonest and indeed shameful of the Commission to argue within the WTO case that between 1996 and 2001 it was developing a regulatory system on the basis that there was significant scientific uncertainty related to the health and environmental consequences of GM crops (5), and to pretend that that uncertainty has now somehow been removed. On the contrary, there is now accumulating evidence (from the British FSE programme and from the MON863 rat feeding dossier, for example) that GM crops and foods are significantly different from non-GM crops and foods and that they have negative environmental and health impacts. If you are unaware of this and other scientific evidence, we will be happy to provide it.

On the matter of your personal responsibilities, can we remind you that during recent weeks, with respect to the "textile mountain" of Chinese fabrics / clothes held up at the ports, you said more than once in the media that your prime concern as a Commissioner is to act "in the interests of the European consumer". Hollow words, Mr Mandelson. In the case of GM crops and foods there are NO benefits to the consumer in the way of lower prices, better nutrition, better shelf life or better taste, and millions of EU consumers have told you over and again that they want nothing to do with GM (6). And yet you and your fellow Commissioners ride roughshod over the wishes of those whom you claim to protect, in a grubby and despicable attempt to ingratiate yourselves with the biotechnology multinationals and the US Administration.

We therefore ask you for an assurance that you will personally oppose any further requests for GM approvals that might come through your colleague Stavros Dimas, on the basis that such consents would be illegal and against the interests of EU consumers.

We are copying this letter to your colleague Markos Kyprianou since he is directly concerned with consumer protection and health.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Brian John
GM Free Cymru

cc Commissioner Markos Kyprianou

Alliance for Bio-Integrity (A US-Based NGO)
"Someday, regulation of GM foods in Europe and America may be aligned with the principles of sound science and the dictates of the law.  Until then, it will remain the case that for these novel products, through the brazen fraud of the US government and the craven complicity of the European Commission, the precautionary principle has not only been dishonoured, but essentially destroyed."

(2) The EC statements relating to the three recent approvals imply that there are "no reports of any adverse effects on health or the environment," and that the authorizations are "backed by science". These statements are disingenuous and dishonest, since there is considerable evidence (about which EFSA is in denial) demonstrating health and environmental damage associated with MON863, GT73 and NK603. If you want chapter and verse, we will provide you with full referenced material on this.

(3) On the Royal Soc web site, Prof Janet Bainbridge (Jan 2001) says: "The presumption of safety of novel GM plants on the basis of substantial equivalence lacks scientific credibility, given modern expectations of standards of evidence. Robust regulatory principles should be developed which give more confidence to the public. Independent scientific capacity should be developed to provide rigorous testing and assessment of novel GM plants." This is true today as it was in 2001, and the EFSA still bases its so-called "scientific assessments" of GM crops and foods on the presumption of substantial equivalence.

(4) The GMO Panel of EFSA has been heavily criticized in the last year for "facilitating GMO authorizations" rather than working to protect the safety of the EU environment and public health. It is packed with GM industry placements, and it has lost the respect of almost all the NGOs who have an interest in GM matters. See the following:

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

(6) David Byrne: "Irrational Fears or Legitimate Concerns" - Risk Perception in Perspective"(03/593) :
"Despite repeated scientific assurance about the safety of consuming
genetically modified food products, public attitudes towards GM foods show
few if any signs of a thaw." He might have added that the so-called scientific assurance has come from sources which the consumers do not trust, and which use bad science.