|Monsanto defies German government / Bureaucrats say yes – public says no! (19/5/2004)|
"Countries that have planted GM crops on a large scale have seen their exports to Europe crash. Maize from the US to Europe has declined from 3.3 million tonnes in 1995 to just 25,000 tonnes in 2002. Canada has lost all of its oilseed rape (canola) market to Europe, worth an estimated $300 million." (item 3)
1.Monsanto defies German government on risk study as EU Commission prepares to approve GM maize
1.Monsanto defies German government on risk study* as EU Commission prepares to approve GM maize
Brussels/Berlin, 18 May 2004 - US biotech giant Monsanto has refused a request by the German government to hand over a study showing that rats fed a variety of Monsanto GM maize suffered serious health abnormalities, Greenpeace revealed today.
The German government, who assessed Monsanto's original application for approval of the MON863 maize, officially asked the company to present the full study to them, after Le Monde disclosed its details last month.
But Monsanto has refused to hand over the document, claiming it is "confidential business information". This blatantly contravenes EU law, which stipulates that any information concerning human health or environmental safety must be made public.
The study, carried out by Monsanto, found that rats fed with MON863 suffered a number of abnormal effects in the development of blood cells and vital organs, including the kidneys.
Despite being aware of these results, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) delivered a positive assessment on the maize on 19 April.
"How can the authorities guarantee the safety of products which they allow on the market, as long as Monsanto and other large biotech companies are allowed to defy governments so brazenly?" said Eric Gall of Greenpeace European Unit in Brussels. "This case shows up just how inadequate and un-transparent European authorisation procedures for GMOs are."
Monsanto's obstructive behaviour comes just as the European Commission prepares to approve the first GMO since 1998. After having repeatedly failed to gain approval from EU Member States, the Commission now has the authority to approve Syngenta's Bt-11 sweet maize alone. It does so in the face of a number of concerns about the safety of the product (2), in the absence of Member State support and against the wishes of a large majority of European consumers, who have said they do not want GMOs in their food.
1: Le Monde 23rd April
2: These include concerns that: a) there was no toxicological testing of the whole plant; b) no tests were carried out on the long-term effects of eating the new protein; the claim that Bt-11 is safe was based on assumption rather than evidence : the food tests quoted by Syngenta in the application were carried out not on Bt11 sweet corn but on another maize variety destined for animal feed, disregarding notable differences between the two. In its 25 November 2003 advice, the French Food Safety Agency (AFFSA) pointed out the lack of data and toxicity studies for the sweet maize and indicated that "potential unexpected effects, due to an interference of the genetic transformation with the specific metabolism of this maize, cannot be excluded". AFSSA re-confirmed its opinion on Bt11 yesterday 22 April : http://www.afssa.fr/actualites/index.asp?id_theme=1086&id_info=5401 A report by the Austrian Federal Environment Agency criticises the Bt-11 application and EU assessment: http:/www.ubavie.gv.at (Executive summary in German and English). On 1 April, the Belgian Biosafety Council refused to give a positive advice on the grounds that Syngenta had failed to provide data requested: http://www.bio-council.be/docs/BAC_2004_SC_116.pdf
Contact: Eric Gall, Greenpeace European Unit, tel +32 (0)496 161 582 Christoph Then, Greenpeace Germany, +49 171 878 0832
2. EU GM BAN UNDER THREAT FROM UNELECTED OFFICIALS - GREEN EURO-MP WARNS COMMISSION TO STAND FIRM ON GM
EUROPE'S six-year de facto moratorium on new GM authorisations could be overturned tomorrow - by unelected bureaucrats in the European Commission.
Green Party MEP Caroline Lucas warned wavering Commissioners to block the authorisation of 'Bt-11' Maize, due to be discussed at the Commission's weekly meeting tomorrow (Wednesday, May 19th), for the sake of human health, protecting the environment, farmers' welfare - and democracy.
Dr Lucas, who represents South-East England and has played a key role in shaping the EU's labelling and traceability rules which came into force last month, said: "There is no consensus over the safety to human health or the environment - and public opinion across the EU is resolutely opposed to the authorisation of new GMOs.
"In these circumstances, the moratorium must remain in force - any decision to change the status quo must be taken by accountable politicians who could be forced to pay the ultimate price of losing their job for their failure to protect EU citizens from GM.
"There is no clear basis for dealing with liability for cross-contamination of non-GM crops, and giving the go-ahead could be the death-knell for organic and non-GM farming in the EU.
"With more than 80 per cent of the EU opposed, and a growing number of regions declaring themselves 'GM-free zones', this would be nothing short of a failure of democracy."
3. GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOODS IN EUROPE: POLITICIANS SAY YES - PUBLIC SAYS NO!
Brussels, Belgium - The approval of the first new genetically modified (GM) food in Europe for over five years will only harden consumer resistance says Friends of the Earth, the world's largest grassroots environmental network.
The group heavily criticised the European Commission (1) for approving the import of a controversial GM sweet-corn without the support of the European Union (EU) member states who remain deeply divided over its safety.
The maize, developed by Swiss-based Syngenta, has been engineered to include a deadly insecticide. The European approval is only for food and animal feed imports and not for growing in the EU.
However Friends of the Earth claim that with opposition so high there is little future for GM food and crops in Europe.
Consumers say no There is virtually no market for GM foods in Europe as consumers have overwhelmingly rejected them. New EU labelling and traceability regulations came into force on April 18th giving consumers better information to decideOfficial opinion polls show that 94.6% of EU citizens want the right to choose and 70.9% simply do not want GM food (2).
GM Free Regions Initiatives to ban GM crops from being grown have now started in at least 22 European countries with some regions introducing their own legislation to ban the crops. In France over 1200 municipalities have issued GM free statements as well as 500 cities in Italy.
GM industry in retreat The biotechnology industry sees no future in Europe. Last week biotech giant Monsanto withdrew their GM wheat after selling their European cereal business last year. Last month Bayer withdrew the only commercial crop it had in the UK. The number of applications to test GM crops outdoors in Europe have reduced 80% since 1997.
Exports lost Countries that have planted GM crops on a large scale have seen their exports to Europe crash. Maize from the US to Europe has declined from 3.3 million tonnes in 1995 to just 25,000 tonnes in 2002. Canada has lost all of its oilseed rape (canola) market to Europe, worth an estimated $300 million.(4)
Adrian Bebb, GM campaigner for Friends of the Earth said: "There is no future for genetically modified foods or crops in Europe. Politicians may be saying yes but the public is clearly saying no. The European market is virtually dead, regions are banning the growing of GM crops and the industry is packing up and leaving.
"The European Commission is gambling with the health of consumers. Member states remain divided over the long term safety of this GM sweet corn, yet the Commission wants to force it down our throats. But the public won't swallow this. Hostility to GM food and crops is likely to grow, and the publics confidence in EU decision-making is likely to be damaged."´
Friends of the Earth opposes the release of GM crops into the environment but does not oppose biotechnology in general.
Notes to Editors
1. The Commission is the executive arm of the European Union.
3. European Commission regrets US decision, Press release, European Commission 13 May 2003
A briefing of the GM situation in Europe can be found at www.foeeurope.org
CONTACTS Adrian Bebb, Friends of the Earth Europe - mobile +49 (0)1609 490 1163 Nicolo Sarno Media Coordinator, Friends of the Earth International 31 20 6221369