GM Safety Tests 'Flawed' New Scientific Paper Shows
November 16, 2004
EU approval of Monsanto GM corn questioned
A peer-reviewed scientific paper, published today in Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering Reviews, debunks the myth that genetically modified (GM) crops are thoroughly tested, regulated and proven safe.
The paper, "Safety Testing and Regulation of Genetically Engineered Foods" [a copy can be obtained from Friends of the Earth.], includes a comprehensive case study of two types of insecticide-producing GM maize (chiefly the MON810 variety of biotech giant Monsanto), showing how flawed testing and regulation permitted these varieties onto world markets despite evidence that they could cause food allergies.
The European Commission recently approved 17 maize varieties derived from MON810, a move that was criticized by a number of EU states including Poland, Austria, Italy, Germany, Greece and Denmark.
Friends of the Earth has also raised concerns with UK Environment Secretary, Margaret Beckett about the prospects of Monsanto’s GM maize being grown in the UK. The British Government has assured the public that GM crops would only be grown in Britain following rigorous testing and under tough controls. But unless the Government takes preventative action, Monsanto’s GM maize (MON810) could be grown in the UK by farmers as early as next spring.
The scientific paper reveals fundamental flaws in how biotech companies test GM crops, and the way the U.S. government regulates them. The paper raises serious questions about whether GM foods, which have been on the market since 1994, are in fact safe, as claimed by the biotech industry and U.S. regulators.
Authors Dr. David Schubert and William Freese base their meticulously documented, 25-page paper on nearly 100 sources, including little-known U.S. regulatory documents and unpublished studies by biotech companies.
"One thing that surprised us is that U.S. regulators rely almost exclusively on information provided by the biotech crop developer, and those data are not published in journals or subjected to peer review," said co-author Dr David Schubert.
William Freese said: "In one case, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ignored a published study by an Food and Drug Administration (FDA) scientist suggesting that GM corn could cause food allergies, and instead asked Monsanto and Syngenta to essentially re-do FDA’s analysis."
The US is the world’s largest exporter of GM crops and accounts for nearly two-thirds of all biotech crops planted globally. GM soya and GM maize account for 83 percent of all GM crops planted on the planet.
"The picture that emerges from our study of U.S. regulation of GM foods is a rubber-stamp 'approval process' designed to increase public confidence in, but not ensure the safety of, genetically engineered foods," said Schubert. "We outline a testing scheme that would be a first step toward putting regulation of GM foods on a scientific footing," he added.
Friends of the Earth’s GM campaigner, Clare Oxborrow, said: "This paper undermines claims that GM foods are well tested and well regulated in the United States, and raises serious question marks over the safety of GM products that the European Commission is forcing onto the market. The Commission must put the safety of people and the environment ahead of the profits of biotech firms and refuse to licence any new GM food or crops."
See "Key Findings" below for more information on the paper and the authors.