EU environment ministers urged to introduce tougher food safety rules (26/6/2006)

"The European Food Safety Authority... ignores major safety concerns raised across Europe and appears to protect the biotech industry rather then the public." - Adrian Bebb


EU environment ministers urged to introduce tougher food safety rules
Europe's food safety body in desperate need of tighter GM safety standards

Brussels, 26 June 2006 - Friends of the Earth Europe today urged EU Environment Ministers to introduce stricter rules to protect the public and environment from genetically modified (GM) foods and crops. Environment Ministers will discuss new proposals to improve the way that GM products are approved when they meet in Luxembourg tomorrow.(1) Adrian Bebb, GM Campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe said, "The European Food Safety Authority plays a key role in the approval of new genetically modified foods. It should be the standard bearer for public and environmental safety. Instead, it ignores major safety concerns raised across Europe and appears to protect the biotech industry rather then the public. Environment Ministers now have the perfect opportunity to take the lead and call for tougher safety standards to be imposed on the biotech industry. It is essential that member states set the standards and not the food safety authority."

The European Commission was openly critical of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in April this year and called on them to address the long term effects of GM crops on the environment and to outline the safety tests that the GM industry needs to carry out. (2) EU documents released to Friends of the Earth Europe earlier this year revealed that the Commission does not know whether GM foods will cause allergies or cancer in the long term. The documents also showed that the impacts on the environment of growing GM crops are still largely unknown. (3)

Friends of the Earth Europe has evidence to suggest that EFSA is currently biased towards the biotech industry. EFSA, which assesses all new GM products, has ignored all safety concerns raised by member states in the last four years and often misquotes scientific research (4). The agency has given positive opinions to all applications by the biotechnology industry. EFSA has previously employed pro-GM scientists and has not forced their scientists to declare their connections with the biotechnology industry. (5)

Friends of the Earth Europe insists that member states, and not EFSA, should set the safety standards needed to protect their environment, farming industry and public from GM foods and crops.

For more information, please contact:

Adrian Bebb, GMO Campaiger at Friends of the Earth Europe: Tel: +49 80 25 99 19 51, Mobile: +49 1609 490 12163, [email protected]

Helen Holder, GMO Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe: Tel: +32 25 42 01 82, Mobile: +32 474 857 638, [email protected]

Rosemary Hall, Communications Officer at Friends of the Earth Europe: Tel: +32 25 42 61 05, Mobile: +32 485 930515, [email protected]

Notes to editors:

1. The Council of Environment Ministers will discuss two questions:

a) How do member states view current developments since the Environment Council meeting on 9 March 2006, in particular the actions proposed by the Commission to improve GMO risk assessments; what further steps, if any, do they believe should be taken ?

b) How do member states and the Commission see the role of the Precautionary Principle in the authorisation and risk assessment of GMOs and GMO products ?

2. See the Commission press release of 12 April 2006, IP/06/498

3. See http://www.foeeurope.org/publications/2006/hidden_uncertainties.pdf

4. Friends of the Earth first drew attention to the work of EFSA on GM foods and crops in a widely acclaimed report, "Throwing Caution to the Wind" in November 2004, http://www.foeeurope.org/GMOs/publications/EFSAreport.pdf

Friends of the Earth Europe has also annotated an opinion written by the EFSA to indicate how they misquote research and ignore scientific concerns (available from Friends of the Earth upon request).

5. Earlier this month, EFSA announced a new GMO scientific panel. It is due to meet at the beginning of July, but as yet no declarations of interest have been posted on their website. Friends of the Earth Europe was critical of the previous Panel for some of their links with industry. For example, Joachim Schiemann is a supporter/member of the Public Research and Regulation, an industry-funded pressure group that campaigns for weaker biosafety legislation and campaigns against public access to information. Schiemann remains on the new EFSA GM Panel. Likewise Dartlef Bartsch was criticized for appearing on an industry film promoting GM maize. He too remains on the EFSA panel.

In addition, EFSA employs a large number of external experts to help it write its opinions. This list of experts includes Andrew Cockburn (former Director of Scientific Affairs at the US biotech corporate Monsanto) and Richard Phipps (a researcher who has worked for many GM companies including Monsanto and Germany's Bayer).

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