GM Free Cymru

EU Committee seeks full reform of EFSA and GM approvals process

Press release from GM Free Cymru 17th March 2011

At a meeting of the EU Parliament's Petitions Committee yesterday (16th March 2011) members agreed to support three petitions critical of the work of the EFSA GMO Panel and of the manner in which the GMO approval process is operated by the Commission (1).

MEPs who spoke (including Margret Auken MEP and Jill Evans MEP) were particularly critical of EFSA for the manner in which revolving doors are kept oiled, allowing a constant movement of personnel between EFSA and the GM industry's lobbying organizations. They were also unanimously critical of the fact that the Commission has allowed this "conflict of interest" situation to persist without calling EFSA to account or treating its decisions and recommendations for GM approvals as biased or defective.

The Committee considered three petitions on GM matters, one from Carolla Twardella of Germany (asking for the recent Amflora potato approval and other GM approvals to be revoked) and the other two from Brian John of the UK, submitted on behalf of GM-Free Cymru and named colleagues (2). Members of the Committee agreed to keep all three Petitions alive.

There was no criticism from the floor of any of the contents of the three petitions, and indeed members all spoke in support of the points made. Responses on behalf of the Commission came from Sebastien Goux, and Michael Walsh spoke for EFSA -- but even they were unwilling to tackle the substantive issues raised by the petitioners.

At the end of proceedings the Chair (Erminia Mazzoni MEP) committed to four quite specific actions, as follows:

1. Consultations relating to the DETAILS of the two Petitions with both the Environment and Agriculture Committees, to see if there is support from those bodies. She hoped they would support the idea of an in depth investigation of the matters complained about by the Petitioners, and also agree to a GM approvals moratorium in the meantime.

2. Immediate communication with Commissioner John Dalli, pressing him to take action in response to the Avaaz Petition of 1.2 million signatures from European citizens (handed over last year).

3. A letter to EFSA asking it to respond to specific and itemised concerns (rather than just repeating its standard statements on GM crops and foods) -- and specifically on the subject of the obvious conflicts of interests of EFSA board members and GMO Panel members who have links with ILSI and other trade organizations and lobbying groups.

4. Letter to STOA (2) seeking an independent assessment of the quality of EFSA's scientific protocols and the reliability of its decisions.

It also emerged during discussions that MEPs are concerned about the manner in which the Commission is trying to finalise the adoption of the GM Implementing Regulation under the pre-Lisbon protocol, in which the Parliament has no say. MEPs argue that the EC should use the new Lisbon Treaty system even though all the procedural rules have not yet formally come into force.

Speaking after giving his two verbal presentations, Dr Brian John said: "I was very heartened by the unanimous support for the Petitions among those MEPs who were present, and also by the fact that both the EC and EFSA now appear to recognize that there are major problems in the GM assessment and approvals system that need to be sorted out. It's good to know that the Petitions Committee is now committed to pushing forward this agenda for reform, and we trust that while this review is taking place the Commission will "freeze" all pending GM approvals in recognition that the science which underpins them is widely mistrusted."

Ends Contact: Dr Brian John Tel 01239-820470

NOTES

(1) From Committee on Petitions Agenda for 15/16 March 2011

N° 305/2010 by Carola Twardella (German), on her recommendation for the Parliament to review its decision to authorise large-scale planting of GMO potatoes by BASF and sale of GMO maize by Monsanto

N° 813/2008 by Mr. Brian John (British), on alleged breaches of the general principles governing the activity of the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) in connection with the examination of the applications for Genetically Modified foods

N° 436/2010 by Mr. Brian John (British), on formal protest against the Commission draft regulation on implementing rules concerning the applications for authorisation of genetically modified food and feed in accordance with Regulation (EC) No 1829/2003 of the European Parliament and of the Council and amending Regulations No (EC) 641/2004 and (EC) No 1981/2006 (in the presence of the petitioner)

(2) http://www.gmfreecymru.org/petition.html

(3) The objectives of STOA (Science and Technology Options Assessment) are to contribute to the debate and the legislative consideration of scientific and technological issues of particular political relevance. To that end, STOA shall: • provide Parliament's committees and other parliamentary bodies concerned with independent, high-quality and scientifically impartial studies and information for the assessment of the impact of possibly introducing or promoting new technologies and shall identify, from the technological point of view, the options for the best courses of action to take; • organise forums in which politicians and representatives of scientific communities or organisations and of society as a whole shall discuss and compare scientific and technological developments of political relevance to civil society; • support and coordinate initiatives to strengthen parliamentary technology assessment activities in the Member States of the European Union, including creating or enhancing parliamentary technology assessment capacities in European countries, especially new Member States.