Science in Society Archive

Important Books & Reports

Banishing Glyphosate

Banishing Glyphosate - Dr. Eva Sirinathsinghji, Dr. Mae-Wan Ho and others

Glyphosate/Roundup, falsely claimed by Monsanto to be safe and harmless, has become the world’s most widely and pervasively used herbicide; it has brought rising tides of birth defects, cancers, fatal kidney disease, sterility, and dozens of other illnesses - more

Ban GMOs Now

Ban GMOs Now - Dr. Mae-Wan Ho and Dr. Eva Sirinathsinghji

Health & environmental hazards especially in the light of the new genetics - more

Living Rainbow H2O

Living Rainbow H2O - Dr. Mae-Wan Ho

A unique synthesis of the latest findings in the quantum physics and chemistry of water that tells you why water is the “means, medium, and message of life” - more

The Rainbow and the Worm - the Physics of Organisms

The Rainbow and the Worm - the Physics of Organisms - Dr. Mae-Wan Ho

“Probably the Most Important Book for the Coming Scientific Revolution” - more

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. Mae-Wan Ho

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 from EuropaBio.

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).

Sources

  1. “Commission for more transparency on GMO decisions. EuroActiv.com 12 April 2006, http://www.euractiv.com/en/biotech/commission-transparency-gmo-decisions/article-154355
  2. “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

Article first published 27/04/06



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