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[SANET-MG] GM free Europe
ISIS Press Release 21/06/07 http://www.i-sis.org.uk/index.php
Scientists and MEPs for a GM free Europe
Independent scientists, MEPs, farmers and citizens united at the
European Parliament condemning GMOs; the European Food Safety Authority
to be sued
Sam Burcher and Dr. Mae-Wan Ho
Scientists from six countries joined forces with Members of the European
Parliament (MEPs) to call for a Europe wide and worldwide ban on growing
GM crops at a special briefing in the European Parliament in Brussels on
12 June 2007.
The briefing, organized by ISIS, Third World Network and Green Network,
and hosted by Janusz Wojciechowski, MEP, the vice-Chairman of the
Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development for the European Union,
coincided with the publication of key scientific papers, GM Food
Nightmare Unfolding in the Regulatory Sham (ISIS scientific publication)
 and New Analysis of a Rat Feeding Study with a Genetically Modified
Maize Reveals Signs of Hepatorenal Toxicity (CRII-GEN)  on how
national and international regulators have been ignoring damning
evidence against the safety of GM food and feed while colluding with
industry to manipulate scientific research to promote GM crops. The
papers were presented at the briefing together with a comprehensive
dossier containing more than 160 fully referenced articles from the
Science in Society archives documenting the serious hazards ignored, the
scientific fraud, the regulatory sham and violation of farmers' rights
 ( GM Science: Hazards Ignored, Fraud, Regulatory Sham, and Violation
of Farmers' Rights , ISIS CD Book, 2007).
All the MEPS who spoke on the panel thanked ISIS for bringing such
crucial scientific input into the GM debate, a view overwhelmingly
shared by other MEPs and members of the public who attended the briefing.
The paradox of the GM debate
Janusz Wojciechowski MEP , who chaired the briefing, referred to the
paradox of rural development within the GM debate in the European Union
(EU). Where c onventional and organic crops are concerned, there are
political moves to reduce the production of fruit and vegetables crops,
but where GM crops are concerned there is pressure to increase
production for consumers. He said, “For me, it is obvious that decisions
on GMOs must be based on public opinion and I do my best, in that regard
as one of the decision makers in the EU, to safeguard the health of
citizens above all.”
Jill Evans, a Plaid Cymru MEP, and member of the Greens/European Free
Alliance Group, pick ed up on the und ue influence of the pro-GM campaig
n in the EU: the anti-GM campaign had to work ten times harder to make
their voices heard. She said, “ As an MEP my job is to listen to what my
constituents in Wales say and represent their views in the EU. And it is
clear that there is overwhelming opposition to GMOs in Wales. Our
farming industry, food safety and environmen t are under threat from GM
crops, food and feed. We must keep Wales GM-Free and have a European ban
on GM crops.”
Opposition to GM crops started in Wales in the year 2000 when GM field
trials in Pembrokeshire were abandoned due to pressure from 80 organic
farmers, which attracted local press, and the interest of members of all
political parties. The National Assembly in Wales had also voted against
GM crops, but in 2001 the UK Government gave them the green light. It
was then that the campaign group GM-Free Cymru was set up, and there
have been no more plantings in Wales since.
Evans stressed that The National Assembly is proactive in the EU, and
has joined GM free networks, but feel that the Welsh decision regarding
GM crops, and liability arising from the contamination of native crops,
should be taken in Wales by its own advisory committee, and not as is
currently done, by DEF RA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural
Affairs) in the UK. She said Wal es is in favour of asserting its right
to GM free zones in accordance with the wishes of the people of Wales,
and supported by the scientific evidence presented at the briefing; and
vowed to keep the GM-free agenda alive and well in Wales and in Europe.
Keep up the fight for a GM free Europe
Dr Caroline Lucas, Green MEP for South-East England, endorsed the firm
stance of all the speakers on the panel, She said, “There is every
reason why we need to keep up the fight to keep Europe GM-free, the
tragedy is that it is such a relentless fight, despite not only the
rapidly accumulating evidence in our favour and the enormous relevance
of the precautionary principle, but also the overwhelming public
opposition to GMOs.” Public opinion polls consistently show that 70
percent or more of consumers in Europe do not want to eat GM food, and
more than 170 regions and 4500 other zones belong to the GMO Free
European Regions set up in Florence in 2005.
Despite the national bans on GM in 11 European countries, the largely
unaccountable European Commission, which lifted the de facto moratorium
in 2003, has authorised at least 18 GM varieties for cultivation in the
EU, with 12 more pending approval. The good news is that many national
governments are sceptical, for example Bulgaria has adopted the GMO Act
that is firmly based on the precautionary principle and Hungary states
that the production of GM crops is not in its economic, environmental,
health or social interests. Lucas was critical of the European Food
Safety Authority (EFSA), supposed to offer independent and scientific
expert evidence on the safety risk of GM products, but has failed in its
task ever since it was set up in 2002 .
Lucas also criticised EFSA for colluding with biotech companies in
giving liberal ‘positive opinions' to their applications for market
release, and for its reluctance to commission or conduct independent
studies, and acceptance of ‘substantial equivalence' in safety
assessments even in cases of hybrids created from two or three GM lines.
Finally the ‘commercially confidential' status of dossiers kept away
from public scrutiny directly contravenes the provisions of the Aarhus
Convention (a United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, or UNECE
agreement linking the environment with human rights). She referred to
the example of MON863 maize that was approved for food and feed solely
on the data provided by Monsanto itself.
The aggressive campaign waged by the US, Canada and Argentina to force
Europe to open its door to GM via the WTO ruling backfired when the WTO
upheld Europe's right to protect itself from GMOs, Lucas reminded her
audience, and reaffirmed the need for a clear system of liability when
contamination occurs based firmly on the ‘polluter pays' principle.
GMOs “a crime against humanity”
Dr Mae-Wan Ho, director of ISIS , painted the big picture on why the
world needs to be GM-Free. Her main message was: “ GMOs are not only
hazardous for health and bad for the environment, they will severely
damage our chances of surviving global warming. GM crops need more
fossil fuel and water to grow, both of which are fast diminishing.
Europe cannot afford to waste any more time and resources on GMOs, we
must start investing in sustainable food and energy systems now.”
After 30 years of GMOs, there has been no yield increase, no reduction
in pesticide use , while the continuing forest depletion for GM crops
now includes those for producing biofuels. Most of all, 100 000 farmers
have killed themselves in India between 1993 and 2003, coinciding with
the introduction of GM crops, and a further 16 000 have died every year
since then. Members of the audience gasped with approval at her explicit
indictment against genetic modification: “GMOs are a crime against
humanity.” Nevertheless, she was encouraged by the recent rulings
against the legality of GM crops in the United States, and a string of
bans imposed in many countries around the world over the past year  (
No to GMOs, No to GM Science , SiS 35).
GM soybean nightmare for rats
Dr. Irina Ermakova of the Russian Acad emy of Sciences s aid she started
her experiments some years ago, when she heard many p ositive reports
about GM crops from around the world , but almost none on any negative
effects. Not until she came across the Statement by World Scientists on
ISIS website ( http://www.i-sis.org.uk/list.php ), which highlighted the
dange rs. She was shocked to find that GM crops were harmful to
butterflies and other pollinating insects, so she decided to do some
experiments on mammals to investigate the health effects of GM soybeans.
The significant difference between her experiments and those of the
biotechnolo gy companies was that she used female rats before, during
and after pregnancy over five generations.
Ermakova said, “So many things went wrong for rats fed genetically
modified soybeans. They became more anxious and aggressive, there was a
high mortality of rat pups born to the females in the first generation,
disturbances of reprodu ctive functions and pathological changes in the
internal organs of males and females.”
She showed her audience abundant unsettling photographic evidence of the
malformed, stunted, diseased (including some with cancerous lesions) a
nd dead pups, whose mothers had all been fed Monsanto's Roundup Ready
soybeans. The stunned audience was in no doubt that something did go
horribly wrong, and that an urgent ban on the sale of the GM soya should
be imposed rather than the permissive, turning a blind-eye attitude
taking by EFSA and other government regulators.
Company research results do not stand up to independent science scrutiny
Dr Christian Velot, Senior Lecturer in Molecular Genetics at the
University of South Paris, France, said: “Practically all the studies
finding “no effect” of GM food and feed are done by companies seeking
market approval or funded by them. This research simply does not stand
up to independent scientific scrutiny, and regulators are putting people
at serious health risks by accepting such research results.” That was
why he joined other French scientists to establish the Committee for
Research and Independent Information on Genetic Engineering (CRII-GEN,
France) since June 2005.
The CRII-GEN scientists have made it their business to scrutinise
research done by companies to obtain market approval of GM food and
feed. They found signs of liver and kidney toxicity in rats fed
Monsanto's MON 863 GM maize that have been ignored by both the company
and the EFSA [2, 5] ( GM Maize MON 863 Toxic , SiS 34) . The CRII-GEN
scientists have now analysed yet another feeding study involving Mons
anto GM maize, NK603. The company's own results found 60 significant
differences between the rats that were fed the GM maize and those fed
non-GM maize, in their kidney, brain, heart and liver, as well as body
weight . But these differences were ignored and the maize given
market approval in the EU in 2004. Velot reasserted the need for science
in society to fight against industry that “treats the consumer as the
lab rat and the planet as the lab bench.”
Taking the EFSA to court over GMOs
Urs Hans, an organic farmer from Switzerland and an activist against GM
had news for the EFSA. He represents an international coalition of NGOs,
farmers associations, lawyers, legal and scientific academics,
professors, scientists, journalists, film directors, church groups, etc.
from Germany, Austria and Switzerland that intends to mount
“comprehensive litigations” against the deployment of GMOs in Europe.
Among its targets are the EFSA and other European regulatory bodies, on
the grounds that their support of the pro-GM lobby is illegal and a
breach of food security. The coalition includes Greenpeace Germany and
leading representatives of Greenpeace Europe, senior politicians in
Austria, and a high profile German Constitutional Law professor in
Munich. The leading German legal think tank, the Tubingen Institute for
Nature Protection and Nature Protection Law, has given the coalition an
overview of possible legal strategies, and the lawsuits are represented
by a leading German law firm in Hamburg specialising in genetic
engineering law. So watch this space, and if you would like to get
involved, log onto one or the other of Hans' website:
www.publiceyeonscience.ch ; www.bauernverstand.ch .
Hans trained as an agriculturalist in Canada, and then managed his own
farm. It was then that he noticed that the organophosphates recommended
by the regional government for the treatment of parasites made his
animals ill. During the BSE crises organophosphates were strictly
imposed on farmers whether their cows were infected or not. Hans felt he
was being forced to use chemical substances to support the economic
interests of the regional government. He made a decision to stop using
organophosphates and was prosecuted three times for his refusal, but he
won every case.
Hans sees GM crops forced upon farmers and consumers along the same
economic and technological imperative of the intensive chemical
agriculture that forced him to use organophosphates. In the end, it's
the farmer who pays for this imperative with his health, the health of
his animals, spiralling debt for inputs that he cannot afford, and the
loss of livelihood. He was inspired to leave his farm to come to the
briefing in Brussels to hear sound scientific evidence to support the
case against the EFSA, and he was very satisfied with what he has heard.
Honeybees harmed by biopesticides in Bt crops
Joe Cummins, Emeritus Professor in Genetics from University of Western
Ontario, Canada, a veteran campaigner against corruption in science on
behalf of society and the environment, has led the fight against GM
science in ISIS ever since ISIS began in 1999.
The collapse of honeybee colonies worldwide are almost certainly a
combination of different factors, the most important among them are
sub-lethal levels of insecticides, in particular, a class of new
systemic neonicotinoid pesticides widely used to dress seeds and in
sprays on crops, and microwave radiation from wireless telephone
transmitters and base stations. There has been a suggestion that
single-celled fungi, such as Nosema , could be the main culprit  (
Parasitic Fungus and Honeybee Decline , SiS 35) .
However, Cummins presented a convincing hypothesis that sub-lethal
levels of pesticides, including the Bt biopesticides produced in GM
crops covering some 30 percent of the global area, could be acting
synergistically with Nosema in murdering bees. Nosema and other
parasitic fungi are also widely used as biological control agents
against insect pests  ( Parasitic Fungi and Pesticides Act
Synergistically to Kill Honeybees? SiS 35).
Cummins said, “The honeybee is a major pollinator of our food crops, and
its demise is a dire warning that the extinction of the human species is
not far behind.” What can we do to save the honeybee? Joe concluded with
three succinct points for the future survival of humanity: the first one
is to eliminate systemic nicotinoid pesticides, the second is to
eliminate Bt crops. He raised a hearty laugh with his third, and his
favourite, suggestion: replacing all the bureaucrats that turn a blind
eye to the plight of nature in favour of the biotech and the
Hiltrud Breyer, MEP from Strasbourg intervened from the audience and
wanted to know what could be done in Europe to save the bees. Dr.
Mae-Wan Ho suggested that an emergency motion should be put forward to
the European Commission along the lines laid out by Cummins.
Genetic engineering is a “global weapon of mass destruction”
Dr Zbigniew Halat, President of the Association for Protection of
Consumer Health in Poland, a medical doctor, and an ex deputy Health
Minister for Poland, said: “I believe that the problems caused by
genetic engineering are global. It is the proliferation of a kind of
biological weapon of mass destruction.” Halat criticized the threshold
for contamination of native crops by GM crops of 0.9 percent, or even
0.1 percent as nonsense. He cautioned that even a tiny molecule could
cause an anaphylactic (toxic shock) reaction and could kill someone who
He believes there is a causal link between GM contamination and the
rising allergy rate that has doubled in 10 years. He argued that studies
of local incidences of allergic reactions to GM maize crops in the
Philippines by Professor Terje Traavik of Genk in University of Tromsø,
Norway  ( GM Ban Long Overdue , SiS 29) have provided us with the
empirical evidence against GM crops. Furthermore, as GM foods have not
been medically proven as safe, it is important that we keep using
opinion polls to assess public support for them and epidemiological
studies to assess their safety.
He even suspects a relationship between GMOs and the rising cancer
rates, antibiotic resistance, and the obesity epidemic. From a medical
point of view, he said, we can't wait for outcomes of sickness and
deaths from GMOs, we must have proof that GM food and feed is healthy
and safe. Finally, we must be aware of the ethical issues around genetic
engineering and that it is not job of producers, but of the public
authorities to protect our health from diseases.
The world's genetic resources threatened by GM genebanks robbers
Dr Pietro Perrino from the Institute of Plant Genetics in Bari, Italy,
tells a sorry tale of the destruction of seeds and germplasm held in
genebanks throughout the world subsequent to the rise of genetic
engineering. On the one hand, genetic engineers have ruthlessly
plundered the seeds and germplasm held in the genebanks for genes, DNA
sequences and varieties which they patent in acts of biopiracy. On the
other and, they are colluding in the destruction of the genebanks
themselves [9, 10] ( SOS: Save Our Seeds , Italy's Genebank At Risk ,
Perrino explained how genebanks came about through the need to collect,
conserve and protect crop diversity because of the genetic erosion
caused by industry-led agricultural revolutions that attempted to
increase crop yields from monoculture crops of a few species. In the
past forty years 1 400 genebanks have been created to compensate for the
negative effects of the “Green Revolution.” However, the second
generation of the “Gene Revolution” where new varieties can be made by
taking the genes from any organism: animal, fungus, plant, microbe or
virus to create new plants, are a direct threat to the larger indigenous
Pietro said, “We urgently need to protect the genebanks as they may soon
be the only source of uncontaminated seed stocks in the world. This may
be why the biotech industry and their supporters are so keen to see them
destroyed after they've sequenced the genomes and patented the genes.”
Furthermore he called upon the regulators of in-situ plant conservation,
organic farmers, natural reserves, and nature conservation organisations
to fight what he calls the “genebanks robbers”, the genetic engineers
who seek to replace genebanks with DNA biobanks filled with synthetic
plant resources that are not only useless, but are also dangerous for
biodiversity, and for the health of living organisms, including human
USDA approves GM under pressure from Monsanto
Journalist and author Jeffrey Smith and executive director of the
Institute for Responsible Technology; began his talk with, “I am from
the US, so I want to apologise for GM at least.” He then slammed the US
Food and Drug Administration who say that no testing whatsoever is
necessary on GM food. This, he claims, is a lie perpetrated by Monsanto,
which has infiltrated the FDA. Who, he asks, has overruled the
scientists worried about toxins? Evidence gathered from thirty
scientists over three years from his latest book, GM Roulette 
documents no less than sixty-five health risks associated with the
process of genetic engineering. Jeffrey argues that the main possible
cause of health problems is related to DNA mutations within synthetic
genes that create changes within the genome. He also points out that
industry's claims of safety of the bt toxin used in GM corn and GM
cotton crops are a fallacy and they that have caused thousands of
allergic reactions around the world, as well as sterility and
unexplained death in humans and livestock. The fundamental assumption
made by industry that GM crops and pesticides are safe must be overturned.
GM production is a trap
Mr Wojciechowski closed the meeting with the warning that the expansion
of GM production is a trap. And, as a European Parliamentarian, he
thanked all the experts who spoke to the meeting for their knowledge. It
is a challenge for European Parliamentarians to make their activity
against GM more intensive. The first opportunity will be the question
raised by MEPs on risk assessment of the EFSA, which will restart the
debate over the dangers of GMOs, he said.
Enthusiastic discussions followed for nearly an hour after the official
end of the conference, and carried on in the European Parliament
cafeteria, where Mr. Wojciechowski kindly treated the speakers and
friends of ISIS to lunch.
Ho MW, Cummins J and Saunders PT. GM food nightmare unfolding in the
regulatory sham. Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease 2007,published
online 7 June 2007, DOI: 10.1080/08910600701 343781
Seralini G-E, Cellier D and de Vendomois JS. New Analysis of a Rat
Feeding Study with a Genetically modified maize reveals signs of
hepatorenal toxicity. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 2007, 52, 596-602.
GM Science Exposed: Hazards Ignored, Fraud, Regulatory Sham, and
Violation of Farmers' Rights, Science in Society Spring 2003-Summer
2007, ISIS CD Book, 2007. ( http://www.i-sis.org.uk/pdf/GMdossier.pdf )
Ho MW. No to GMOs, no to GM science. Science in Society 35 (in press).
Ho MW. GM maize MON 863 toxic. Science in Society 34 , 26-27, 2007.
“Monsanto maize approved for human consumption potentially toxic, warns
new study. Greenpeace demands immediate withdrawal of suspect maize from
the market, and review of regulatory system”, Greenpeace press release
14 July 2007,
Cummins J. Parasitic fungi and honeybee decline.
http://www.i-sis.org.uk/PFHB.php ; also Science in Society 35 (to appear).
Cummins J. Parasitic fungi and pesticides act synergistically to kill
honeybees? http://www.i-sis.org.uk/Parasiticfungi.php ; also Science in
Society 35 (to appear).
Ho MW. GM ban long overdue: dozens ill and five deaths in the
Philippines. Science in Society 29 , 26-27, 2006.
Ho MW. SOS: Save our seeds. Science in Society 27 , 45-47, 2005.
Perrino P. Italy's genebank at risk. Science in Society 27 , 48-49, 2005.
Smith J M. Genetic Roulette, The documented health risks of genetically
engineered foods . Yes! Books, Fairfield, Iowa, 2007.
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