EU-US free trade deal will dismantle EU public health protections on GM foods

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Prof GE Séralini’s team at the
University of Caen found serious health effects in rats fed GM maize over a long-term 2-year period

Earth Open Source press release | 18 Feb 2013

EU-US free trade deal will dismantle EU public health protections on GM
foods

Contact: Claire Robinson | Claire.robinson@earthopensource.org | +44 (0)752 753 6923

An EU-US free trade deal would obliterate EU safeguards for health and
the environment with regard to genetically modified (GM) crops and
foods, warns Earth Open Source.

The proposed deal claims to tie health issues related to genetically
modified organisms (GMOs) to “accepted, science-based standards” and
“harmonize regulations and standards that can hinder transatlantic trade
and investment”. [1]

But Claire Robinson, research director at Earth Open Source, said: “This
is doublespeak for watering down the EU’s already weak GM regulatory
system to the level of the almost non-existent regulation in the US. The
US system assumes that GM foods are no different from non-GM foods and
so do not require special regulatory oversight or safety tests. [2]

“If the new trade agreement goes through, it will be illegal under World
Trade Organisation rules for the EU to have a stronger regulatory system
for GMOs than the US system. It will be a race to the bottom in which
public health will be the loser.

“The proposed agreement fits neatly with ongoing attempts by the
European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the Commission to water down
the EU’s GMO regulatory system to the US level.”

EU laws on GMOs aim at a high level of protection for human and animal
health and the environment. But they have been undermined by weak
guidelines for risk assessment of GMOs developed by the GM
industry-funded International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) and adopted
by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). [3], [4]

In September last year Earth Open Source warned that the EU’s GMO risk
assessment methods would be further weakened by a draft Regulation
currently passing through the Commission’s opaque comitology process. [5], [6] *The draft Regulation is scheduled for a possible vote in a meeting
of the Commission’s standing committee on the food chain and animal
health on 25 February.* [7]

The draft Regulation does not require long-term animal feeding trials on
GMOs, such as that carried out by Prof GE Séralini’s team at the
University of Caen, which found serious health effects in rats fed GM
maize over a long-term 2-year period. [8]

Currently, industry often carries out a short 90-day animal feeding
study on a GMO it hopes to commercialise. But the draft Regulation fails
to make even this type of study mandatory and enables it to be waived in
the future. It also allows the GM food to escape a full risk assessment
and safety testing if it is deemed equivalent to a non-GM food in a
process that is based on assumptions, rather than scientific testing.[5, 6]

Robinson said: “The system laid down in the draft Regulation is not
based on science but on a US-inspired ‘don’t look, don’t find’ attitude
among industry and regulators. It’s now clear that the draft Regulation
and the proposed free trade agreement are working in tandem to dismantle
the EU’s public health protections on GMOs.”

The draft Regulation has reportedly been frozen in its progress through
the Commission’s comitology process, pending agreements on proposals to
allow EU member states to place national bans on growing GMOs.

Earth Open Source recommends that the draft Regulation is abandoned in
its current form and rewritten to uphold existing EU law. It is also
calling for the proposed free trade agreement to be made public and
opened for discussion immediately.

Footnotes:

[1EU Business (2013) Everything on the table in US-EU free trade deal.
14 Feb. http://www.eubusiness.com/news-eu/us-economy-trade.mda.

[2Antoniou, M., Robinson, C. and Fagan, J. (2012) GMO Myths & Truths.
Earth Open Source.
http://earthopensource.org/index.php/2-science-and-regulation/2-1-myth-gm-foods-are-strictly-regulated-for-safety.

[3Then, C. and A. Bauer-Panskus (2010) European Food Safety Authority:
A playing field for the biotech industry, TestBiotech.
http://www.testbiotech.org/en/node/426

[4Then, C. and C. Potthof (2009) Risk reloaded: Risk analysis of
genetically engineered plants within the European Union, Testbiotech.
http://www.testbiotech.de/en/node/256

[5Earth Open Source (2012) EU Commission’s draft GMO Regulation:
Charter for the GM industry. 20 Sept.
http://earthopensource.org/index.php/news/127-eu-commissions-draft-gmo-regulation-charter-for-the-gm-industry

[6European Commission (2012). Commission implementing regulation (EU)
No…. on 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 (EC) No 641/2004
and (EC) No 1981/2006.
http://earthopensource.org/index.php/news/127-eu-commissions-draft-gmo-regulation-charter-for-the-gm-industry

[7EC Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (2013)
Agenda, 25 Feb 2013.
http://ec.europa.eu/food/plant/standing_committees/sc_modif_genet/docs/ag25022013_en.pdf

[8Séralini, G. E., et al. (2012). Long term toxicity of a Roundup
herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize. Food and
Chemical Toxicology 50(11): 4221-4231.

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