Europe's food agency accused of junk science

New report calls for GM maize to be banned

Press release - July 29, 2009
An opinion by Europe’s food agency advocating the safety of the only genetically modified (GM) crop grown in Europe is fundamentally flawed, according to a Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth Europe report. The report will form the basis of a submission to a public consultation on Monsanto’s MON810 maize that ends on 15 August. The green groups call on the European Commission and EU countries to reject the authorisation of this crop.

The ten-year licence for MON810 maize has expired and the EU is currently considering whether or not to re-authorise it. [1] In this context, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) issued an opinion at the end of June claiming that MON810 is safe. [2]

However, a scientific analysis of the opinion commissioned by Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth Europe has revealed serious mistakes and omissions by EFSA and questions its conclusion. [3] Among other points, the report reveals that EFSA:

  • ignores or plays down research that shows that the insecticide produced by the GM maize could have negative knock-on impacts on Europe's butterflies and other insects. Instead they recommend unspecified "management measures" for areas known to host butterflies and moths;
  • fails to admit that there is scientific uncertainty and conflicting reports over the maize's impact on the environment or health;
  • ignores peer-reviewed scientific studies that highlight safety concerns;
  • quotes research carried out on a completely different GM crop as a basis for claiming that MON810 is safe;
  • fails to investigate the safety of new unknown proteins generated in the maize by the genetic modification process.

"EFSA has once again violated its mandate. If university students submitted the EFSA report as course work, they would get the worst mark: an 'F'. 'F' for failed but also 'F' for fundamentally flawed," said Márta Vetier, Greenpeace EU GMO policy officer.

"The food safety agency either suffers from a serious lack of scientific expertise or is playing a highly risky political game with our health and environment. There is clearly enough evidence to show that this insecticide-producing crop could be hazardous and should be banned from Europe's fields," said Adrian Bebb, Friends of the Earth Europe's Food and Biodiversity Coordinator.

Six countries have already banned the growing of MON810, including Germany and France. National governments have also been complaining about the quality of EFSA's work and have outlined their own concerns about the safety of the crop. Most recently, the French government stated that it could not accept EFSA's opinion on MON810. [4] In May, twelve member states wrote to the Food Safety Authority expressing concerns about its ongoing work.

"The Commission has no other choice but to reject EFSA's opinion, ban the cultivation of MON810 maize and look for another official authority that is capable of delivering unbiased, science-based advice to decision makers," added Márta Vetier.

Other contacts:

Márta Vetier – Greenpeace EU GMO policy officer. +32-(0)496-161-582 (mob.), +32-(0)2-2741-920,
Natalia Truchi – Greenpeace International communications manager. +31-(0)-624-940-977 (mob.), +31-20-718-2056,
Dr. Janet Cotter – Greenpeace Science Unit senior scientist. +44-(0)781-217-4783 (mob.)

Adrian Bebb – Friends of the Earth Europe, Food and Biodiversity Coordinator. +49-1609-490-1163 (mob.),
Francesca Gater – Friends of the Earth Europe, Communications Officer. +32-(0)2-893-1010,


[1] The crop was originally approved under old legislation that has since been strengthened.
[3] Cotter, J. & Mueller, W. 2009., A critique of the European Food Safety Authority’s opinion on genetically modified maize MON810. Greenpeace Research Laboratories Technical Note 05/2009. Jointly commissioned by Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth Europe.