European Commission funding biotech PR effort (21/7/2007)

GM Watch comment: Nobody reading our newsletters could be in any doubt that we had strong concerns about genetic engineering and the way in which it's being promoted. Likewise, anyone reading a GMO Compass newsletter could hardly be in doubt that it was put together by people keen to promote the acceptance of GM crops and food.

But unlike GM Watch or, say, the openly GM-espousing AgBioView, GMO Compass makes claims to neutrality:

'GMO Compass is not decidedly "for" or "against" genetic engineering. The website does not seek to discourage the use of genetic engineering in food and agriculture, nor does it seek to promote it.'

As Helena Paul - co-author of The Hungry Corporations - points out below, this is nonsense. GMO Compass is in many respects out and out PR for GMOs. But more disturbingly still, this effort to put a favourable gloss on this technology comes courtesy of European Commission funding, ie it's being financed out of the taxes of EU citizens.

It turns out, as Helena also explains, that GMO Compass is primarily the work of a company that goes by the name of 'Genius'. This firm numbers amongst its customers:

American Soybean Association
BASF Aktiengesellschaft
Bayer CropScience AG
Biotest AG
Diaclone SAS
DIB – Deutsche Industrievereinigung Biotechnologie
EuropaBio [the lobby group for the European biotech industry]
Future Capital AG IALF

Illinois Agriculture Leadership Foundation
InnoPlanta e.V.
Pflanzenbiotechnologie Nordharz/Börde
Science4Life - der Businessplan Wettbewerb
and VCI -
Verband der Chemischen Industrie e. V.

A client list like that adds insult to injury when it comes to the extensive public funding of the GMO compass project.


Comment from Helena:

You may all know about [GMO compass] already, in which case my apologies, but I did not (very late discovery it's been going since Feb 2006!) and I find it disturbing. I found one mention of it in GM Watch back when it started.

It is all very favourable to GM, uses a lot of PR language like "genetically optimised". It reports in a very biased manner every kind of "good news" story[about GM]. There are no names on the site.

I would have thought that, since it is meant to be a public information service from the Commission, it would be possible to take action against it on the basis of bias and lack of transparency. The EU has funded it to nearly half a million euros for two years. The recipient of the funds is plainly very pro-biotech.

If you haven't seen it yet or recently, I strongly recommend going here:

And having a good look.

Information about itself on the site:

"This website project is financially supported by the European Union within the European Commission's Sixth Framework Programme.

GMO Compass is the work of independent science journalists. The European Commission and other EU agencies are not responsible for the content of this website."

I sent a message asking for a list of the journalists to their "comments welcome" address. It bounced. However, the message bounced back from the following address:

<[email protected]>

Who turns out to be:

Dr. Christoph Löwer

GENIUS GmbH Robert-Bosch-Str. 7 D-64293 Darmstadt Germany phone: +49 - (0) 6151 - 872 40 47 e-mail: [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]>

So I looked a bit further and found this:


February, 2006

Source: CORDIS Express <http://www.cordis.lu/express/> Project Fact Sheet GMO-COMPASS GMO Communication and safety evaluation platform Action Line: FOOD-2003-T0 Realising ERA objectives - Promotion of SME participation - Stimulating international cooperation - Linking with Candidate Countries - Supporting Policy Development - Stimulating exploitation - Contributing to the EU strategy for Life Scien


Contact Person: Name: N/A Email: Contact <http://cordis.europa.eu.int/MailAnon/index.cfm?fuseaction=Hiding.PostalForm&address=006e006900670065006c002e00620072006f006f006b00730040006b0063006c002e00610063002e0075006b> Organisation: GENIUS BIOTECHNOLOGIE GMBH GERMANY

GMO-COMPASS aims at the establishment of a European consumer-oriented website (www.gmo-compass.org) providing easily comprehensible information on issues of safety evaluation of GMOs and GMO-products. The information on risk analysis, assessment and risk management will be embedded in the general GMO debate closely linked to political, legal and socio-economic aspects along the food chain. A network of local correspondents in EU member states support reporting the national GMO debate. GMO-COMPASS complements the existing information supply and transparency measures of EU institutions and state bodies as well as the websites of lobby groups and scientific institutions.

The consumer will be reached:

0.by the choice of issues presented at the website, which will be orientated consequently along the information needs of consumers

0.by offering science-based information due to the expectations of laypersons embedded in a balanced reporting including counter-expertise and views of non-scientists

0.by an intensive off-line and on-line marketing (e.g. content co-operations with consumer- and commercial food related websites, co-operations with consumer organisations)

0.by appealing journalistic outcomes such as news, interviews, stories, condensed (pocket) information, Q&As, fact sheets and

0.by a close cross-linking between information and public dialogue (on-line discourse).

GMO-COMPASS will support important goals in the EU-commission's strategy for consumer information: - stronger presence and awareness of science-based facts in the public debate - transparency in the safety evaluation regulatory practice of GMOs - by that - supporting more public trust in food safety of GMOs and the precautionary principle- providing and facilitating a dialogue between consumers, scientific experts and stakeholders on risk perception and consumer expectations on food quality and safety of GMO.

Project details
Project Reference: 6914 Contract Type: Specific Support Action
Start Date: 2004-12-20 End Date: 2007-01-01
Duration: 24 months Project Status: Execution
Project Cost: 460020.00 euro Project Funding: 460020.00 euro
Participant Organization: TÜVNORD ENSYS HANNOVER GMBH & CO. KG Country: GERMANY
Participant Organization: GERD SPELSBERG Country: GERMANY
RCN: 74127 Last

Here are a few samples from their material:

Extract from press release re amflora potato:

"Amflora is a genetically optimised potato with a different starch composition, making it ideal for technical applications. In contrast to conventional potatoes, which produce starch consisting of amylose and amylopektin, the GM potato produces pure amylopektin starch."


I also thought this story was interesting

GM plants no problem for the honey industry http://www.gmo-compass.org/eng/news/stories/280.gm_plants_no_problem_honey_industry.html

Honeybees play an important role as pollinators for many plants. They fly from flower to flower, collecting nectar and pollen without paying any attention to field boundaries. If genetically modified Bt maize is grown, bees will certainly come into contact with the GM plants. Is there any impact on the honey production as a result? Scientists in Bavaria (Germany) have been investigating this question in a number of experiments.

Responsible for the study was the Bavarian "Landesanstalt für Weinbau und Gartenbau (LWG), which undertook the experiments together with other local institutions. The results were published in 2005 and included the analysis of honey and pollen collected by bees in closer proximity to GM maize cultivations.

Bees are important pollinators for many plants

To learn about the influence of GM cultivations on honey production, separate bee colonies were positioned first immediately next to GM maize, secondly next to conventional maize and thirdly in meadow areas at a distance of 700 metres from the GM maize field. The honey was collected and analysed employing molecular biological methods. In 17 of the 36 samples, scientists detected maize although no genetically modified maize could be found. This indicates that intake of GM maize into the honey was so low as to be below analytical detection limits.

Pollen loads

Bees also collect pollen, which they transport in the form of small balls, known as pollen loads, on their hind legs. In the hive, they scrape this pollen off and store it in cells. The analysis of such pollen loads revealed that all samples – with one exception – contained maize pollen and that traces of GM maize could be identified. Two bee colonies had pollen loads with a GM maize level of approximately 5 percent, whereas the majority remained below the threshold of 0.9 percent and therefore also would remain exempt from labelling requirements when used in pollen products. These products may be used in nutritional supplements with a high content of proteins and vitamins.

Spring honey

Spring honey is harvested before maize flowering takes place, and therefore only may contain leftovers from pollen collected in the previous year. The researchers detected in only two of such honeys traces of maize pollen. These traces were, however, too small to be analysed for genetically modified maize.

The entry of GM maize into honey can be eliminated almost fully if bee colonies are not close to the GM field.

Maize pollen on other bee plants

The experiments also confirmed that maize pollen is transported by wind onto other plants that are attractive for honeybees and are "visited" often. The amount of maize pollen proved to be higher at closer proximity to the maize field than at greater distances. However, traces of GM maize could not be detected in this pollen.

The scientists also were unable to detect GM maize in the collected honey. This was in line with results from the previous year, in which GM maize was found in the honey at extremely low amounts despite the fact that pollen distribution had been significantly higher.

The researchers demonstrated that the entry chance of GM maize into honey can be eliminated almost fully if the bee colonies are not in close proximity to the GM field. The experiments confirmed that bees are not attenuated or harmed by approved genetically modified maize varieties. The scientists thereby concluded that the cultivation of Bt-plants does not affect the beekeeping industry.

See also on GMO-Compass:

GMO Labelling: Guidelines - These Products Do Not Require Labelling

May 25 2007

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