Comment: EFSA fails to protect European citizens from a risky GM maize

Press release - June 28, 2007
Brussels, Belgium — The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) missed an opportunity today to recover its credibility as regulator of GMO authorisations in Europe.

Blind-folded Greenpeace activists in a cage outside the EU Environment Council meeting protest about that consumers are the unwitting test animals of a giant genetic experiment, due to improperly tested GE products in the food chain.

The authority dismissed the call for further independent investigations into a Monsanto maize (MON863, already approved for sale in the EU), the subject of a scientific peer-reviewed study in March 2007 (1) which highlighted negative impacts suffered by rats fed with MON863 during feeding trials. The authors of the study warned that to disregard the signs of toxicity in the liver and kidney of the test animals would pose a danger to human and animal health.

EFSA's refusal to re-open the file on MON863 in the light of this study is consistent with the authority's stubborn refusal to assess GE applications in a balanced way: ever since it was established in 2002, EFSA has rubber-stamped every GMO application. It relies solely on data from agro-chemical companies, disregards long-term health and environmental impacts, and repeatedly dismisses divergent scientific opinions.

The timing of this announcement is telling. Having waited more than three months to release its opinion, it is no coincidence that EFSA chose to do so today, the very day that EU environment ministers are due to discuss the risk assessment of GMOs and the case of MON863 maize. Such an obvious attempt to influence a Council decision exposes the true motivations of EFSA, allegedly an objective agency of the European Union. At least now it is clear for all to see that EFSA is running a campaign to influence EU decisions and push risky GMOs on an unsuspecting public.

Two weeks ago, Greenpeace reported on a new study by French scientists showing similar threats of toxicity from another Monsanto GE maize (NK603) that the EFSA also recommended for sale in the EU, despite never having investigated disturbing anomalies in rats fed with the maize.

Greenpeace is not alone in having criticised EFSA for failing to implement EU law while assessing the risks of GMOs. In April 2006, the European Commission issued a statement (2) calling for better test protocols and more research into the long-term effects of GMOs. The Council, too, repeatedly voiced concerns about EFSA's work. EFSA's recommendations on GMOs have never achieved formal backing by the required two-thirds majority of EU member states.

"Greenpeace is thus calling on EU member states and the EU Commission to reform EFSA's work to ensure that EU law governing GMO risk assessments is correctly implemented," said Marco Contiero of Greenpeace. "Until this reform is concluded, no further GE applications should be authorised."

"The Commission should also withdraw authorisations already granted to other genetically-engineered products, given that they were approved under the same inadequate risk assessment procedure. The time has come for the EU to put the precautionary principle before the vested interests of agro-chemical companies such as Monsanto," he added.

EU environment ministers meeting today will discuss a proposal for further investigations into Monsanto's MON863 maize and the GMO risk assessment process.

Other contacts:

CONTACT
For technical background
Christoph Then, Greenpeace Germany GE campaigner, tel +49 171 878 0832

In Luxembourg
Marco Contiero, Greenpeace European Unit Policy Adviser on GMOs, tel +32 (0)2 274 1906

In Brussels
Katharine Mill, Greenpeace European Unit Media Officer, tel +32 (0)2 274 1903

Notes:

1. Seralini, G.E., et al, 2007, 'New Analysis of a Rat Feeding Study with a Genetically Modified Maize Reveals Signs of Hepatorenal Toxicity', published in Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 52, 596-602

2. European Commission IP/06/498, 12 April 2006 http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/06/498&format=HTML&aged=1&language=EN&guiLanguage=en

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