Press Notice from GM Free Cymru 18 September 2006
It has now been revealed that the European Food Safety Authority, the body responsible for food safety issues across the EU, is involved in the GM rice cover-up which was revealed in the media over the weekend (1).
Thus far, most of the criticism from NGOs, consumer groups and the UK media has been aimed at the Food Standards Agency, which is supposed to implement European food safety laws in the UK. It is claimed that it has shown criminal negligence in failing to protect the public from the contaminated rice, and FoE has signalled that it is taking legal action against it for failing to act in accordance with its own governing documents (2).
Now it is evident that the cover-up extends much further, into the heart of the EC. On Friday 15th September, the day on which EFSA issued its "qualified statement" indicating that GM-contaminated rice might be safe to eat (3), the Authority also wrote to GM Free Cymru confirming that it would not release 30 pages of information about LLRICE601 (the offending rice variety) contained in the dossier submitted by the seed owner, Bayer CropScience.
GM Free Cymru has reacted with fury, and has immediately entered a protest (4) on the grounds that EFSA has made a "safety judgement" on the basis of secret information which should be in the public domain. Spokesman Dr Brian John says: "This is yet another outrage. Scientists want to see this information about the DNA of this illegal and unsafe GM rice variety -- but they are prevented from doing so because of EFSA's obsession with secrecy. The variety known as LL601 is an old and failed GM variety which Bayer CropScience has no intention of commercializing or marketing. It may well be unstable and non-uniform. The company stopped working on it five years ago. So there can be no possible justification for a "Commercial Business Information" classification in this case.
"If EFSA will not show us the scientific basis for the advice it issued last week, we will simply not accept it. We will assume that there is something very dodgy about LL601 rice, as already indicated by the fact that 2,000 tonnes of it were dumped into a landfill in Texas in 2001 (5). The EC is supposed to have zero tolerance of illegal GM contamination (6), but now appears that EFSA is seeking to undermine the words of one of its own Commissioners. We will not accept EFSA's involvement in this cover-up, which serves only to protect a powerful GM corporation and to place at risk the health of European consumers."
It appears that EFSA has learnt nothing from last year's ruling by a German court, in the case of the GM maize line known as MON863, which effectively said that there is no justification for a CBI classification on research and DNA information where there is public health concern. In that case, after many months of delay, EFSA was shown to have acted against the public interest, and Monsanto was forced to open up its research dossier for public scrutiny.
GM Free Cymru
(1) Media coverage over the past two days:
FOOD STANDARD AGENCY FACES LEGAL CHALLENGE OVER GM-CONTAMINATED RICE
(4) GM Free Protest against the EFSA decision to withhold LL601 data from the public:
(5) Bayer buried over 2,000 tonnes of failed GM rice in 2001
Date: 3 September 2006 11:52:57 BDT
(6) Markos Kyprianou, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, said "We
have strict legislation in place in the EU to ensure that any GM product put
on the European market has undergone a thorough authorisation procedure based
on scientific assessment. There is no flexibility for unauthorised GMOs - these
cannot enter the EU food and feed chain under any circumstances."
EC statement issued on