Greenpeace parody highlights conflict within Commission between industry profits and science

Press release - 28 November, 2007
Greenpeace is today staging a parody protest outside the EU Commission’s Berlaymont headquarters, posing as lobbyists for companies that produce genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and are trying to get them approved for sale and planting in Europe.

Over the coming days, European Commissioners are expected to vote on a proposal from Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas to refuse EU authorisation for two genetically modified varieties of maize, because they are toxic to certain butterfly species and pose a threat to other insects and soil health. The two new maize varieties are produced by agrochemical firms Syngenta and Pioneer/Dow, and are designed to kill insect pests.

Recent research has shown that toxin-producing GM plants can have a range of unexpected effects, from harming beneficial insects, to contaminating streams and poisoning aquatic life. These findings show that growing the GMOs for which the biotech industry is seeking EU authorisation could entail considerable environmental damage.

Current EU legislation requires the European Commission to apply the precautionary principle and take various aspects relevant to GMO plants into account, when deciding on GMO authorisations, such as new scientific evidence and social factors.

Public opinion polls constantly show that most Europeans oppose the presence of GMOs in the food chain and in the environment. A majority of EU member states have also repeatedly expressed opposition to GMOs. Yet, the European Commission constantly authorises them, with the keen backing of the US government.

"Behind our parody is a serious call for greater transparency. We are protesting about the disproportionate influence of the GMO industry in certain Commission departments. Industry lobby-groups such as the European Federation of Biotechnology (EFB) and EuropaBio, which represent the interests of agrochemical companies, have 'excellent working relations' with the Commission," explained Marco Contiero of Greenpeace. "We call on the European Commission to stop listening to the powerful biotech lobby and support Commissioner Dimas' call to refuse authorisation for  the two pesticide-producing GM maize."

As with all parodies, the performance by Greenpeace projects a dangerous truth. This is confirmed today by the public lobbying activity of the European Federation of Biotechnology (EFB), a pro-GMO lobbying organisation promoting the use of biotechnology in Europe and defending GMO industry interests. Among its members are Monsanto, Bayer, the American Biotechnology Industry Organisation and the German Association of Biotech Companies: hardly a collection of independent scientists.

"The EFB is a front for companies like Monsanto. This lobby group is obviously trying to mask commercial interest with dubious scientific credentials. We expect the EU Commission to see through the sham and treat them as an ordinary industry pressure group," added Contiero.

VVPR info: Marco Contiero , Greenpeace European Unit, GE Policy Director +32 2 274 1906, Mobile: 0032-477777034.For Photos, contact John Novis, Greenpeace International Picture Desk, + 44 207 865 8230For Video, contact Maarten van Rouveroy, Greenpeace International video producer, 0031 646197322