GM Free Cymru

(8) Press Notice from GM-Free Cymru 28 April 2010

Press Notice from GM-Free Cymru Brussels, 26th April 2010

GM products: commission places commercial aspirations above consumer health

EU petitioner highlights deficiencies in GM assessment process

The European Commission has been accused of pandering to the  commercial aspirations of the GM / biotechnology corporations while  placing the health of European citizens at risk from GM products that  have never been adequately assessed.

That claim was made by Dr Brian John, who was today verbally  presenting his Petition (1) to the Petitions Committee of the European  Parliament.  Dr John explained to the Committee that he, and many  other NGOs and consumer groups, have been trying for years to  introduce trustworthy and transparent scientific assessment procedures  into the European GMO approvals process -- with a signal lack of  success.  He showed that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)  routinely bases its "opinions" on new GM crops and foods on highly  selective and biased scientific dossiers assembled by the applicants  without peer review and without independent verification; that the  Commission issues consents even where there is substantial scientific  uncertainty about the safety of the GM products concerned; that the  GMO panel within EFSA is heavily biased towards the "facilitation of  consents" rather than the protection of the public; and that  independent research into GM safety is routinely blocked by the GM  multinationals through the simple device of refusing access to their  patented GM seeds and other reference materials.  Further, he showed  that access to research dossiers and data sets was routinely denied to  independent researchers, with EFSA and the Commission using  "commercial in confidence" rules in a manner that was against the  public interest.

All in all, argued the Petitioner, much of the science on which GM  approvals are based in Europe is untrustworthy, since experiments  cannot be repeated and since results cannot be verified.  He accused  EFSA of accepting at face value experimental data that might well be  fraudulent -- and of placing the health of European consumers at  risk.  Furthermore, he argued that the scientific assessment of GM  products is increasingly entrusted to EFSA as more and more Member  States pull out of the risk analysis process; and that in a new "Draft  Implementing Regulation" (3) designed to tighten up the assessment and  authorisation process EFSA and the Commission are conniving to water  down application requirements and to speed up the authorisation  process -- again with clear public health implications.

In its verbal response to the Petitioner, Sebastien Goux of the  Commission (4) made no attempt to address the issues raised by the  Petitioner.  He simply reaffirmed the Commission line that it takes  health and safety issues very seriously, and that it has complete  faith in the integrity and competence of the EFSA GMO Panel.  He also  claimed that the "Draft Implementing Regulation" currently notified to  the WTO had emerged after two years of consultation within the EU and  within Member States, and that it was an "improvement" designed to  speed up and simplify the whole approvals process.

Following the Petitioner's presentation and the Commission response,  committee members from France, UK, Denmark and Ireland spoke in  support of the Petitioner, and asked for the matter of GM scientific  assessments and approvals to be brought under much more careful  scrutiny.  No MEPs spoke in support of the Commission.  The Chair  therefore took the feeling of the meeting to be that the Petition  should be kept open, and examined in much greater depth in association  with other initiatives (for example within the Environment Committee)  relating to GM issues.

Speaking to hosting MEP Jill Evans at the end of the Committee session  Dr John said he was very grateful for the support of MEPs and the  Committee, and for the decision to carry the Petition forward.  "It's  very clear that this is a big issue throughout the EU," he said.   "Citizens are not convinced about the safety of GM crops and foods,  and their concerns are based partly upon mistrust of companies like  Monsanto and Syngenta, and partly upon mistrust of the Commission.  I  had hoped that my Petition would encourage the Commission to review  very carefully the scientific procedures involved in the assessment  and approvals process, and to get rid of a wide range of practices  that allow potentially dangerous GMOs to get safety clearances from  EFSA and then approvals from the Commission.  But the Commission has  done NOTHING to clean up its own procedures, or those of EFSA --  although it has abundant powers at its disposal (5).  Its response to  the serious points which I raised has been complacent and evasive, and  I hope that the Parliament will not tolerate this situation for a  moment longer.  The EC is seeking to introduce fast-track GM  approvals, while playing with smoke and mirrors to convince the  European Parliament that procedures are being "improved."  That is  absolutely unacceptable, and it is clear to me that the Commission and  EFSA, working together, are pandering to the wishes of the USA and the  WTO for faster and simpler GMO approvals, while showing scant regard  for the safety of European citizens".



1.  Name: Brian John Nationality: Welsh Hosting MEP: originally Kathy Sinnott, MEP Ireland South; now Jill  Evans, MEP Title of Petition: The importance of impartiality within EFSA & the  food safety rights of EU citizens (No. 0813/2008):

2. Commission response to GMO Petition is "complacent and evasive"

3.  Draft Commission Regulation on implementing rules concerning  applications for authorisation of genetically modified food and feed  in accordance with Regulation (EC) No 1829/2003 of the European  Parliament and of the Council and amending Regulations No (EC)  641/2004 and (EC) No 1981/2006 (66 pages, in English).

4.  Dr Sebastien Goux, DG-SANCO, European Commission