ISIS Report 27/04/06
European Food Safety Authority Criticised for GMO Bias
European Commission Introduces Wide-ranging Changes in Approval Process
A window of opportunity for a comprehensive GM ban. Dr.
The role of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)
is to carry out scientific assessment on food products proposed for the market
in order to ensure that they are safe for human and animal consumption and
for release into the environment. When the EFSA is satisfied that the products
are safe, it gives a “positive opinion”, which, in the past, would almost
certainly have resulted in product approval, despite dissenting opinions from
national regulatory authorities.
The EFSA has been long been accused of bias
towards the biotech industry, not just by civil society organisations, but
by EU member states, including Austria, the current holder of
the rotating EU Presidency. They criticise it for “GMO bias” and say it has
approved GM products without proper research.
On 12 April 2006, the European
Commission decided to introduce “practical changes” to the EFSA’s GMO approval
process “so that the scientific consistency and transparency of its decisions
on GMOs will be improved.”
The Commission “invites” the EFSA to fully
cooperate with member states’ national scientific bodies, to provide them
with a detailed justification in case it rejects scientific objections raised
by the national authorities, and to clarify which specific protocols should
be used by applicants for scientific studies to demonstrate the safety of
the proposed products. The Commission is set to reserve itself the right to
suspend the authorisation procedure and refer back “important new scientific
questions” raised by the member states that are not fully addressed by the
EFSA opinion. Applicants and the EFSA will also be asked to address more explicitly
the potential long-term effects on health and biodiversity in their risk assessments
for placing GMOs on the market.
The changes were based on proposals by Health
and Consumer Protection Commissioner Markos Kyprianou and Environment Commissioner
Stavros Dimas, and adopted by the European Commission after discussions with
member states and other stakeholders.
The Commission’s move to reform the EFSA
was generally welcomed by the NGOs. But Greenpeace Europe wants EFSA to be
immediately subject to mandatory guidelines on how to evaluate the risks of
GMOs, and further, calls for suspension of the current authorisation process
and for re-assessment of EFSA’s previous opinions on GMOs.
The industry group, EuropaBio welcomes most
of the proposals except the one that gives the Commission the right to suspend
the authorisation procedure and refer back the question if a member state
raises new scientific questions not fully addressed by the EFSA opinion. “I
find this point very confusing and wonder how the Commission will do this
‘in the existing legal framework’, as it says it will,” said Simon Barber
More importantly, this creates an opening for all independent scientists and
civil society to submit new evidence to the European Commission that could result
in a ban on all GMOs if the evidence is taken at all seriously (see for example,
“GM ban long overdue, dozens ill & five deaths in the Philippines” SiS
29, and many articles in recent issues of SiS).
ISIS will be collating new evidence over the next couple of months; so please
send us any information you think relevant to firstname.lastname@example.org
“Commission for more transparency
on GMO decisions. EuroActiv.com 12 April 2006, http://www.euractiv.com/en/biotech/commission-transparency-gmo-decisions/article-154355
“Comission proposes practical
improvements to the way the European GMO legislative framework is implemented.
Europa Press Release, 12 April 2006, http://www.europa.eu.int/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/06/498&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en