WEEKLY WATCH number 172 (20/4/2006)

from Claire Robinson, WEEKLY WATCH editor

Dear all:

Extraordinary revelations have emerged from the European Commission, which has been approving GM crops ***in full knowledge*** that their health and environmental safety is in doubt (EUROPE). So it seems that the people at the Commission are not so stupid that they cannot understand the risks, but merely corrupt in putting the interests of trade above those of EU citizens.

The Pope has finally come out with a statement on genetic engineering, and it's unlikely to please the biotech lobby (CHURCHES).

Claire [email protected]
www.gmwatch.org / www.lobbywatch.org




The Pope delivered a blistering attack on the "satanic" mores of modern society on 14 April (Good Friday), warning against an "inane apologia of evil" that is in danger of destroying humanity.

In a series of Good Friday meditations that he led in Rome, the Pope said that society is in the grip of a kind of "anti-Genesis". Particular condemnation was reserved for scientific advances in the field of genetic manipulation. Warning against the move to "modify the very grammar of life as planned and willed by God", the Pope lead prayers against "insane, risky and dangerous" ventures in attempting "to take God's place without being God".


New documents released to Friends of the Earth reveal that the European Commission has been approving GM foods and crops despite having serious doubts over their health and environmental impacts. Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace have called for a suspension in the use and sale of all GM foods and crops until the safety issues have been addressed.

The documents reveal the scientific arguments put forward behind closed doors in the recent GM trade dispute at the World Trade Organisation. In them, the Commission argues that there are "large areas of uncertainty" and that "some issues have not yet been studied at all". They also reveal that:

* On human safety: "there simply is no way of ascertaining whether the introduction of GM products has had any other effect on human health... there is no unique, absolute, scientific cut off threshold available to decide whether a GM product is safe or not."

* On growing GM crops: "It is a reasonable and lawful position" that insect-resistant crops (the only GM crops being grown in the EU) should not be planted until all the effects on the soil are known.

* On the environment: a key scientific study that was used to support the environmental safety of a GM crop is "scientifically flawed".

* There are huge disagreements between the Commission and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), an EU agency. In one example, the Commission criticises the EFSA for not requiring further investigations after dismissing scientific evidence that showed that a certain GMO had negative effects on earthworms.

At the same time as the Commission was writing and submitting these documents to the WTO highlighting safety concerns, it:

* pushed through the approval of seven GM foods over the past 2 years, despite a lack of support from member states;

* required member states to vote twice on proposals to lift national bans on GM products in five countries. It was defeated in both votes. Ironically, in the submissions to the WTO, the Commission gave scientific arguments to justify the bans.

* Commercialised 31 varieties of Monsanto's GM maize for cultivation in the EU.

Adrian Bebb of Friends of the Earth Europe said, "This is a political scandal. When the EU Commission broke the moratorium and forced new genetically modified foods into Europe, it told the public they were safe. Now we know that behind closed doors the Commission was arguing the complete opposite.

"These double standards of the EU Commission clearly show that public health and environmental protection are being compromised by an institution intent on promoting trade and business interests at any costs."

Reports by the Daily Telegraph and the BBC on this story:

Austria, current president of the European Union, looks like the only country that might face an order to lift its bans on certain GM products, senior European Commission officials said.

Between 1997 and 2000, five EU countries banned specific GMOs on their territory, focusing on three maize and two rapeseed types that were approved shortly before the start of the EU's six-year moratorium on new biotech authorisations.

Last June, the Commission, the EU's executive arm, tried to get all the bans scrapped. The World Trade Organization (WTO) has also attacked these "national safeguards", as they are called in EU jargon, for breaking international trade rules.

But it got a stinging rebuff from EU environment ministers, which rejected proposals for the five states - Austria, France, Germany, Greece and Luxembourg - to lift thei


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