Italy calls for independent EU research on GMOs (30/5/2005)

When you read the comments below by the EU Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner, defending a status quo whereby the likes of monsanto provide the safety data on their own products, you may feel a deal of sympathy for the French "Non!"

Monsanto won't even release their research to general scientific scrutiny.

But then, why should they? As Monsanto's director of corporate communications explained, "Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food. Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible."

Italy calls for independent EU research on GMOs
REUTERS, Mon May 30, 2005
By Jeremy Smith

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Italy, known as skeptical about genetically modified (GMO) foods and crops, called on Monday for Europe's top food safety agency to use its own research when deciding if GMOs are safe -- not just that of the manufacturers.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is regularly asked for its independent scientific views on the safety risk of GMO products for entry into the EU's food chain, for consumption by humans and animals, and release into the environment as crops.

EFSA's opinions are required by law if any country objects to a company's application to authorize a new GMO product on EU territory. The agency, set up in 2002, conducts its assessments based on data given by the biotech companies that make the GMOs.

"The EFSA ... does not conduct any scientific tests to ascertain whether new genetically modified products are safe to use. It merely examines the scientific data supplied by applicants," said a statement written by Italy's EU delegation.

"In our view, the EFSA should itself be able to perform the analysis required for independent assessment of the safety of products for which marketing authorization is sought, either by making its own checks on data supplied or, if necessary, by having further investigations carried out," it said.

Italian Agriculture Minister Giovanni Alemanno read out the statement to a regular meeting of EU farm ministers in Brussels. Even though he won support from several other countries, such as Greece and Luxembourg, his comments largely fell on deaf ears.

"I don't share the concerns, the point of view that we have to have EFSA performing its own tests," EU Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner Markos Kyprianou told reporters.

"Any change in the system would change the EU's whole approach on GMO authorizations, and it would alter the burden of proof," he said. "Based on the system we have, there is no reason for a change."

EFSA, which recently moved from Brussels to its new base in the Italian city of Parma, came under fire late last year from environmental group Friends of the Earth, which accused the agency of repeated bias in favor of the biotech industry.

Friends of the Earth said EFSA's GMO panel had ignored views of scientists working for EU governments and issued a string of positive assessments on GMO safety. EFSA denied the charges, saying it was not influenced by commercial or other interests. Alemanno said he was disappointed by the Commission's response and would continue to insist that EFSA take a more proactive role in its GMO assessments.

"Kyprianou's response was unsatisfactory," he said.

"We want more severe and objective rules for approving GMOs for food. It must be possible to EFSA to do their own experiments, or have a list of certified institutes who they can ask," he told reporters.

Despite the EU ending a five-year blockade on authorizing new GMO products around a year ago, EU governments are still deeply divided on the merits and disadvantages of GMO foods.


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