Thoughtful coverage of the "no consensus on GMO safety" statement, now signed by 230 scientists, physicians and academics, continues with this article from Research Europe.
It's reproduced below (item 1) with the kind permission of Research Europe, an influential online magazine read by scientists and policy makers across Europe.
EU chief scientist Anne Glover weighs in with her usual GMO promotional, citing an astonishingly biased and evidence-light report on the wonders of GM by a publicly funded body, EASAC.
EASAC is chaired by British GM promoter Brian Heap, who also wrote the Foreword to the report.
More on Heap: http://www.powerbase.info/index.php/Brian_Heap
Oddly, Glover and others who disagree with the scientists' statement fail to see the logic problem that in insisting that there is a scientific consensus on GMO safety, they are arguing with scientists who say there isn't such a consensus. Thus Glover and her allies are effectively confirming what the statement says - that there isn't a scientific consensus!
In yet another example of how the GM industry and GM-friendly politicians and officials move in lockstep with one another, the EASAC report cited by Glover is also cited by the GM industry lobby group, the Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC), in an article in Farmers Weekly (item 2 below) attacking the scientists' statement.
In the Farmers Weekly article, the ABC's Julian Little amusingly tries to counter the scientists' statement by repeating the same myths that are rebutted in the statement itself, including the claim that trillions of GM meals have been eaten around the world with no ill effects!
Farmers Weekly bizarrely characterises ENSSER, the scientific group that coordinated the statement, as an "anti-GM campaign group", which will come as a surprise to the eminent GMO and biosafety researchers (and professional scientists) on its board and staff:
- not to mention to the 230 scientists and experts, including genetic engineers, who've signed the statement.
A sinister note is sounded in the Farmers Weekly article by Helen Ferrier of the National Farmers Union (NFU) of Britain. Ferrier cites a letter signed by a few pro-GM farmer groups in Europe lobbying for "swift action" from policymakers to speed up the adoption of GM crops in the EU, supposedly to ensure that Europe's farmers remain competitive.
Given the evidence that European non-GM farming is more productive using fewer pesticides than US GM farming (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/14735903.2013.806408), it seems that the NFU's Ferrier is less interested in evidence than in furthering the interests of the GM industry.
Ferrier, and others who share her enthusiasm for GM, appear to want to rush Europe into a GM future before it can fully take stock of the ever-mounting evidence and farmer reports revealing problems with the technology.
Previously, Farmers Weekly published an excellent article on the scientists' statement:
The scientists' statement and an up to date signatories list can be viewed at: http://www.ensser.org/media/
1. Complacency about GM risky, say academics
2. Scientific consensus on GM crops safety 'overwhelming'
1. Complacency about GM risky, say academics
Research Europe, 7 November 2013
Homepage: www.researchresearch.com (individual articles can be accessed by subscription)
A group of academics is attempting to reignite the scientific debate on genetically modified organisms, saying that there is not yet sufficient evidence to prove that they are safe.
In a statement released on 21 October, the scientists said that more research was needed into the health and environmental risk of GM crops. According to the document, signed by 230 researchers, a mistaken perception that the technology is free from risk has taken hold.
“This debate has become black and white. This is our attempt to claim the middle ground back,” says Angelika Hilbeck, an ecologist from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and chairwoman of the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility, which coordinated the statement. “We are not saying that GM is unsafe—just that the verdict isn’t out yet.”
Most EU nations have maintained a moratorium on GM crops since the development of the first commercial strains in the 1990s, but GM advocates have lately renewed their push for permission to grow the crops. Brian Wynne, a sociologist of science at Lancaster University in the UK, says that peer-reviewed research highlighting potential risks of GM is often discredited even if it uses the same methods as studies showing no harm, and that “such double standards undermine good science and public trust”.
Meanwhile, most scientists are trained and funded by industry to conduct molecular biology research under a narrow frame of reference, neglecting important areas of study, according to the statement.
Anne Glover, chief scientific adviser to the European Commission’s president, says that public funding for such research has indeed declined, but attributes this to “the relentless anti-GM lobby”. Glover disagrees with the claim that there is no scientific consensus, citing a report
from the European Academies Science Advisory Council in June that said there was no evidence of GM causing more harm than other plant-breeding technologies.
Jens Sundström, a plant scientist from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, also says that the science supports the safety of GM crops, and suggests that future research should focus on assessing emerging traits rather than remaining preoccupied with those already in use. “We need to show that this technique is also beneficial for small-scale farmers,” he says.
However, Wynne argues: “Policymakers are required to make decisions based on democratically expressed values as well as the best available scientific understanding,
but it’s an abdication of political responsibility to claim that science says GM is safe.”
2. Scientific consensus on GM crops safety "overwhelming"
Farmers Weekly, 25 October 2013
The Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC) has refuted claims from an anti-GM campaign group that there is “no scientific consensus” on the safety of genetically modified foods.
More than 90 scientists, academics, and physicians added their names to a statement published this week which challenges claims from the UK government and biotech companies that GM foods are safe.
The European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER) released the statement in the week after the World Food Prize was awarded to employees of GM seed giants Monsanto and Syngenta.
ABC chair Julian Little said the statement had been put together by an anti-GM group and he insisted that contrary to the claims, there was an “overwhelming weight of evidence” that points to the safety of GM crops.
Dr Little said: “Biotech crops are among the most extensively tested foods in the history of food safety.
“In 2010, the European Commission concluded on the basis of 130 research projects involving 500 independent groups over 25 years that ‘there is, as of today, no scientific evidence associating GMOs with higher risks for the environment or for food and feed safety than conventional plants and organisms’.
“This year, the representative body of the national science academies of the EU Member states agreed, saying that ‘there is no validated evidence that GM crops have greater adverse impact on health and the environment’ than any other crops produced using plant breeding techniques.”
Dr Little added that an estimated three trillion meals containing GM ingredients have been eaten around the world over the past 13 years “without a single substantiated case of ill-health”.
“The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that: ‘No effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved’.”
Dr Little said the WHO’s statement was backed up by government regulators around the world, including the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in the UK.
The Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC) of Australia said the ENSSER’s statement “flies in the face of a consenus of an overwhelming majority of scientists”.
“Every legitimate scientific organisation that has examined the evidence has arrived at the conclusion that GM crops and the foods they produce pose no risk to human health or the environment beyond those posed by their conventional counterparts,” added ABC Australia.
Meanwhile, EU farming groups, including the NFU, NFU Cymru, NFU Scotland, and the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU), have added their name to a different letter, which voices “deep concern” about the effects of GM policies and regulations in the EU.
In an open letter sent to the European Commission on behalf of the French Association for Plant Biotechnology (AFBV), they called for better for access to the best crops, including GM varieties, so that agriculture in Europe can be more sustainable and less reliant on imported products.
The letter states that the lack of options for GM technology available to farmers in Europe can equate to significant loss of income and a missed opportunity.
Helen Ferrier, NFU chief science and regulatory affairs adviser, said: “The heads of EU institutions have a great deal of power to sort out this mess and ensure the EU doesn’t become uncompetitive in both agricultural production and scientific research.
“This letter demonstrates the strength of feeling in the agriculture sector across Europe. Swift action must be taken.”