NOTE: This article is reproduced with the kind permission of EU Food Policy -, which is providing excellent coverage on EFSA issues - see also their article: MEPs unhappy with EFSA assessment of Seralini study. 

Please note that both these articles are under EU Food Policy's copyright and should not be reproduced without their prior permission.

COMMENT: This is the first time EFSA has ever shown an interest in long-term studies on GMOs. However, the next issue is EFSA's willingness/ability to design a scientifically rigorous study, given that EFSA is ridden with conflicts of interest and the paucity of the industry studies that EFSA accepts as supporting GM crop approvals, many of which seem to be designed in such a way as to mask rather than expose problems! So study design will be a critical issue, as will the choice of researchers given the evidence that there is a clear link between favourable outcomes in GMO studies and author affiliation with industry.

Note that EFSA are also clearly avoiding looking at the NK603 maize that Seralini studied for fear that this will lend credibility to the study which they have tried to dismiss out of hand. But there could not be a better testament to the power of Prof. Seralini's study than this change of policy. As the article notes, EFSA has previously been highly resistant to even 90 day studies.
Commission and EFSA agree need for two-year GMO feeding studies
EU Food Policy, 17 December 2012 [subscription required]

The European Commission is trying to fund two-year GMO feeding studies on rodents, Ladislav Miko, deputy director general of DG SANCO (food) said last week. 

He was speaking at the EFSA management board meeting which discussed the Authority's assessment of the controversial Seralini study into the lifelong toxicological effects of GM maize.

Mr Miko made clear he is looking for a research budget to "test the method" of longer term studies. The Commission has said it will fund an EU project focussed on 90-day GMO feeding studies, but Mr Miko now wants to extend this to cover two-year studies.

EFSA's executive director, Catherine Geslain-Laneelle, pointed out that the study would be on MON810, not NK603 - the GM maize used by Prof Seralini.

She volunteered EFSA's help in designing the long-term studies, with a particular emphasis on their methodology. 

She said EFSA itself could commission studies and that it and the European Commission should discuss how a long-term study could be funded.

Prof Seralini's study of NK603 claimed to show that that GM maize caused cancer in rats which were fed it for the equivalent of a lifetime. EFSA and other EU agencies have said the methodology was flawed and did not support the conclusions.

But at the EFSA board meeting on Thursday last week there was agreement that long-term studies were needed and it was now just a question of how to fund them.

This approach is also supported by some member states, including France and Belgium. EFSA's chair, Sue Davies, said that while the Seralini was considered by EFSA to be flawed, it had "flagged up that more work was needed on longer term studies".

EFSA has previously been very resistant to long-term studies. Its GMO panel has said that even 90-day studies are not scientifically relevant, although the Commission is now stipulating these in the new guidance for applicants which is currently under discussion.

In a clear change of position for EFSA, Mrs Geslain-Laneelle said it was taking the lead in liaising with the different parts of the European Commissionto get the initiative off the ground.

In a news statement she said, "EFSA encourages the European Commission to dedicate research project funding through its DG Research framework programme addressing risk assessment needs, including long-term feeding trials."

The Seralini study was a lifetime study over about two years. It is quite interesting in the context of aspartame that EFSA is now accepting this type of study because the controversial Ramazzini work on aspartame is over a similar length of time.

© EU Food Policy