2nd December 2005
Dear Mr Mandelson,
GM Authorizations and GM Food safety
Thank you for your letter, which we were glad to receive after a long
period of eager anticipation. We assume that the Euro Ombudsman has
has a quiet word in your ear about your reluctance to communicate. Sad
to say, we find your complacency quite extraordinary, and profoundly
1. With regard to the EFSA, we are glad that you are at least aware of
the very heavy criticisms directed at its GMO panel by environmental
and consumer groups from all over Europe (1) (2). They certainly do
not consider EFSA to be "independent"since it has not yet, to the best
of our knowledge, ever recommended a refusal of consent for a GM
variety. Not to put too fine a point on it, EFSA is widely considered
to be corrupt, partly because it is packed with appointees whose
careers depend upon a continuation of the GM enterprise, partly because
it sees its duty as the facilitation of GM approvals rather than the
protection of the public, and partly because it depends almost entirely
upon the highly selective and biased scientific evidence submitted to
it by the GM corporations in support of approval applications. Science
done as part of an advocacy process does not make for good science. If
that situation does not worry you, then God help us all.
2. Arising from the above, we totally disagree with you regarding the
"high quality" of the EFSA work on GMOs. Partly this is because the
EFSA scientists accept the scientifically nonsensical concept of
"substantial equivalence", and partly because they actually do no work
on GMOs apart from pondering deeply on the science and the opinions
placed before them. When the material does not suit them (as in the
case of the German submission regarding MON863) they go out and look
for more evidence until they find some that DOES suit them. And they
appear to have neither the budget nor the inclination to commission
genuinely independent studies on the health and safety of GM crops and
foods, because these are simply assumed to be the same as their non-GM
equivalents and therefore risk-free (3). If that situation does not
worry you, then God help us all.
3. We are intrigued that you place the responsibility for advising the
Commission on GM approvals on the shoulders of Commissioner Dimas, and
we are equally intrigued to learn that -- in his view -- there have
been no "genuine doubts" about the safety of the products approved thus
far. We are appalled by that statement. Are you and your fellow
Commissioners, and Commissioner Dimas in particular, so protected from
the real world that you only see what EFSA places in front of you? Or
do you see other evidence but prefer to exist in a state of denial?
There is now a flood of information from the scientific community which
supports the original findings of Pusztai and Ewen in 1999 that there
is something in GM foods (possibly associated with the creation of
novel proteins) which affects the immune system of animals which
consume even quite small quantities (4). Today we have received a
copy of a letter from Prof David Schubert which demonstrates through
the citation of numerous sources that the claim that GM plants are "no
different from classically bred plants" is unambiguously false (5).
That claim is made over and again by EFSA and by the GM multinationals,
but constant repetition of a lie does not turn it into a truth. What
more does Commissioner Dimas need in order to have "genuine doubts"?
If he has not assessed the recent information on GM feeding studies in
Russia, Australia and Italy, then it is high time he did (6). If that
situation does not worry you, then God help us all.
4. Finally, your point about consumer choice is, quite frankly,
beneath contempt. You say that "some European citizens" would rather
avoid eating GM food. According to all the polls we have seen, we are
talking here about 60% - 70% of European consumers who want nothing to
do with GM. In Switzerland, 55% of those who voted in the recent
referendum voted to keep the country GM-free, in spite of a massive
pro-GM campaign by the political and scientific communities and farming
and business interests (7). In the EU we do not have a referendum
system for the modification of laws; but there are many who wish that
we did, in view of the quite cynical disregard within the commission
for the wishes of ordinary people. You say that tolerance is a two-way
street; but so far as we know, nobody has actually declared a desire to
eat GM foods. Would you eat them, given a choice? You are obsessed
with making them available, but nobody wants them. There are
absolutely no consumer benefits associated with them; they are not
cheaper, tastier, more nutritious, safer or more attractive in terms of
shelf life. The GMO labelling legislation does NOT allow citizens to
steer clear of GM foods; it is woefully inadequate, and foods
containing GM soya (for example) are flooding into Europe in spite of
the fact that there are now grave and well-documented concerns about
the results of feeding studies based upon (for example) RR soya (8).
If that situation does not worry you, then God help us all.
We hope -- but doubt -- that you have actually read the contents of our
earlier letters. We trust that you will also accept that there is
grave concern in the scientific community about the safety of GM foods,
as indicated by the recent decision of the Government of Western
Australia to commission independent feeding studies on a number of GM
varieties including MON863 (9). Regardless of what EFSA may advise you
to do, it would be an act of the gravest folly for the Commission to
issue any further authorizations in the present climate of uncertainty;
and we ask you for an assurance on this point. We also ask you to
take the initiative and to order EFSA to commission fully independent
feeding trials on all of the GM varieties already authorized, and all
of those varieties currently in the authorization pipeline.
We look forward to hearing your considered response.
Dr Brian john
GM Free Cymru
(3) We understand that at a recent GM meeting at FOA headquarters in
Rome, Dr Harry Kuiper, chair of the GMO panel of EFSA, stood against
the consensus among the 12 invited scientist and refused to consider
independent feeding studies as a means of settling the rising
controversy over the safety of GM foods. In other words, he was
prepared to dismiss as irrelevant the recent feeding studies which have
caused much concern throughout the world.
(4) According to a letter received 24.11.05 from Arpad Pusztai, "A
consistent feature of all the studies done, published or unpublished,
including MON863, indicates major problems with changes in the immune
status of animals fed on various GM crops/foods, the latest example of
this coming from the GM pea research in Australia."
(5) Professor David Schubert:
(6) New evidence of harm from GM food triggers call for immediate ban
(7) Swiss GM referendum:
(8) The inability, or unwillingness, of the Commission to prevent many
thousands of tonnes of maize products contaminated with Bt10 from
entering Europe between March 2005 and October 2005 illustrates the
fact that the much-vaunted EU regulatory system just does not work.
(9) This comes in the wake of the GM pea fiasco, which led to the
abandonment of a GM variety when it was discovered that a novel protein
within the plant was causing lung damage to laboratory animals.
On 1 Dec 2005, at 17:13, Peter.MANDELSON@cec.eu.int wrote:
> Our ref. CAB24/PM/RN/mvdl D(05) 1801
> Dear Mr. John,
> First of all, I would like to apologize to reply only now to your emails
> of October and November.
> I am aware that the Commission’s decisions on the authorisation of GMOs
> are based on the scientific assessments of the European Food Safety
> Authority. My fellow Commissioners Dimas and Kyprianou, both responsible
> for GMOs, informed the College of the criticism of specific interest
> groups against the European Food Safety Authority. However, I can assure
> you that the College maintains its confidence in the independence of the
> Authority and the high quality of its work.
> The decisions to approve the four GMOs referred to in your emails have
> been based on the information presented to the College by Commissioner
> Dimas who is the Commissioner directly responsible for GMO approvals. On
> the basis of this information, I had no reason to object to the
> authorisation of these products since it is based on the regulatory
> framework in place in the EU. I trust that if there would have been any
> genuine doubt about the safety of the products in question, Commissioner
> Dimas would have drawn the attention of the College to the issue and the
> Commission would have seriously considered the matter. But this has not
> been the case.
> To conclude, I would like to add that my fellow Commissioners and I are
> aware of the nature of the debate on GMOs in the Member States and, in
> particular, of the fact that some European citizens would rather avoid
> consuming GM food. In fact, the EU GMO labelling legislation allows these
> citizens to exercise their rights to choose and avoid GM food if they
> wish so. However, there maybe other citizens who have no concerns about
> GM products. These consumers are equally entitled to exercise their
> rights to choose. I hope you would agree with me that tolerance is a two
> way street.
> Yours sincerely,
> Peter Mandelson
> Member of the European Commission