'Anne Glover, you are wrong'
2.Professor Glover's 'Poll' Dancing
1.GMOs: "Anne Glover, you are wrong"
EurActiv, 27 July 2012, updated 30 July 2012
An interview by EurActiv with Anne Glover, European Commission chief scientific adviser, on GMO crops triggered a response on EurActiv.fr last week (27 July) from French MEP Corinne Lepage. Lepage says Glover was "wrong" to state there was "no more risk in eating GMO food than eating conventionally farmed food."
Corinne Lepage is a member of the European Parliament for ALDE (Citoyenneté Action Participation pour le 21Ã¨me siÃ¨cle), and rapporteur for the proposal to allow European Union member states to restrict or prohibit the cultivation of GMO foods on their territory.
”‹Anne Glover, chief scientific adviser of the Commission, said in an interview with EurActiv on 24 July: "There is no substantiated case of any adverse impact on human health, animal health or environmental health, so that’s pretty robust evidence, and I would be confident in saying that there is no more risk in eating GMO food than eating conventionally farmed food." She added that the precautionary principle no longer applies.
The position comes in a particular context, marked by several setbacks for the European Food Standards Agency (EFSA) and the Commission in their handling of the GMO issue. In December 2011, the European Ombudsman asked EFSA to strengthen its rules and procedures to avoid potential conflicts of interest in 'revolving door' cases.
This decision recognised shortcomings within the agency following the departure of the head of its GMO panel to a biotechnology company in 2008.
In May 2012, the European Parliament refused sign off on the agency's budget, as a result unsatisfactory conflicts of interest in respect of its GMO panel. Finally, several member states reiterated requests made by the Commission at a Council meeting in December 2008 to improve the functioning of EFSA.
Glover's statement is simply inaccurate. It is all the more surprising that it comes from someone who complains about politicians' lack of trust for scientific evidence. The first requirement to be expected of a scientist, especially one who has the task of advising the European Commission, a risk management institution, is to submit real evidence.
However, regarding the environmental impact of GMOs, the evidence is overwhelming and completely concrete. Not only is the dissemination of GMOs to non-GM plants proven, but the damage caused by regrowth elsewhere, which requires the use of ever more toxic pesticides, has already become a reality.
The resulting loss of productivity, together with unsatisfactory seeds, spell disaster for farmers. These adverse effects mean that farmers, in Burkina Faso for example, are becoming increasingly reliant on the traditional cotton crop, but also to the despair of many Indian farmer, who have gone so far as to commit suicide, unable to pay for patents as a result of their poor harvests.
Add to that the criticisms of the Monsanto company in the United States for damage caused by certain GMOs, and the mutation of the corn borer insect, and other forms of insect attacked by GMO pesticides. Under these conditions, to say that GMOs have no concrete negative consequences on the environment is a fiction.
”‹Regarding health, the situation is much worse, but it is true that it is a lot more difficult to prove. The fact is that GMO producers have worked for several years to impose secrecy on studies on rats fed for 90 days with GMOs, and especially to prevent independent studies.
However, several valuations have revealed that GMOs affect the liver, the kidneys, blood count and weight. Certainly, the debate is open as to whether studies recognised as statistically significant, including those by Monsanto, could indicate pathological effects or otherwise.
But the words of Glover suggest the opposite is true. Furthermore, how can one advocate for research and science, while at the same time not completing the studies on the potentially negative impacts of GMOs on health called for by the Council in 2008?
”‹Weight of responsibility
Glover has as such taken on a heavy amount of personal responsibility, going so far as to say the precautionary principle is no longer applicable. If in the coming years, evidence on the toxicity of GMOs comes to light, European citizens would be entitled to ask her for an explanation.
Only time will tell. Meanwhile, her exaggerated stance is not in keeping with science, which progresses through doubt and research, nor what European citizens expect of the European institutions, in which they must put their trust to protect their health and environment, nor is it in the interest of Europe.
2.Professor Glover's "Poll" Dancing
The EU chief scientist says we need to be more positive about GM, and the Independent is creating polls to say we are.
Two items of news appeared in Farmer’s Weekly this week that were as shoddy as the journalism that they were regurgitating. The first, an article about a poll that the Independent ran on Thursday 26th July, saying that; ‘Two in three support GM crop testing’, had come to this conclusion based upon one, out of context, question, and from that question The Independent (and later FW) reported that public opinion is shifting in favour of the development of genetically modified crops! Other polls on GM Which, IGD, Food Navigator, MSN – taken during the last ten months tell a more complex story.
The question posed to the poll participants was leading to say the least. It asked; “Should the Government encourage experiments on GM crops so that farmers can reduce the amount of pesticides they use?”
The results are unsurprising. People want to see a reduction in pesticide use and that they support research which they are led to believe might achieve that. But they weren’t asked if they preferred a GM or non-GM approach; nor if they wanted more non- GM research; nor if they wanted more independent and transparent research on the risks of GM crops.
I wonder how this supposed shift in support would hold up if the polls explored the increasing evidence that GM crops are failing to deliver and that viable alternatives exist?
The current pro-GM push by government ministers and taxpayer funded research institutions is counter to on-going public scepticism and concern. Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee recently concluded that “the government should not license its [GM] commercial use in the UK nor promote its use overseas”.
So why don't we pay more attention to that instead of making sweeping assumptions about a public's perceptions based on one opinion-manipulating, leading question?
The second of the articles regurgitated in Farmer’s Weekly was taken from an interview for Euractiv with the Chief Scientific Advisor to the EC; Anne Glover. In this interview, Mrs Glover claims that, “There is no substantiated case of any adverse impact on human health, animal health or environmental health, so that’s pretty robust evidence, and I would be confident in saying that there is no more risk in eating GMO food than eating conventionally farmed food." She added that the precautionary principle no longer applies.
However, Professor Glover's comments would be more convincing if the European Food Standards Authority (EFSA), the body responsible for licensing GM crops in the EU, was genuinely independent, impartial, transparent and evidence based.
Its GM advisory panel is dominated by GM industry sponsored people, the panel's chairperson has been forced to resign after her close ties to the industry were exposed and the European Parliament has refused to sign off the EFSA accounts because of its repeated failures to establish robust protocols to deal with overly cosy industry relationships. There is a systemic lack of transparency and independent research verification in its evaluation procedures; a working presumption in favour of GM applications and an unwillingness to adopt new investigative methodologies.
Professor Glover is being remarkably disingenuous to say that there is no evidence that GM has any impact on the environment. The emergence of "superweeds" and the contamination of non-GM crops in the US are clear to see; evidence of pest resistance is now being reported; as are examples of health disorders in laboratory animals.
At present this does not amount to a conclusive case against GM but it is enough to maintain precaution and is certainly enough to require that publicly funded officials – which Professor Glover is - and EFSA, take a more sober and considered view about GM technology.
Since when has the job description of the EU's Chief Scientist included the role of lead cheerleader for the GM industry?
Professor Glover says she wants less politics, less emotion and more science in the GM debate. It is ridiculous of her to suppose that decisions about this technology can – or should be based solely on a scientific perspective.
In any case, since taking the job, her pronouncements have had a shrill, almost hysterical, quality about them.
And critically, her dismissal of the emerging evidence of problems and declaration that GM is risk free is profoundly unscientific.
As French MEP Corinne Lepage puts it, “Glover has as such taken on a heavy amount of personal responsibility, going so far as to say the precautionary principle is no longer applicable. If in the coming years, evidence on the toxicity of GMOs comes to light, European citizens would be entitled to ask her for an explanation.
Only time will tell. Meanwhile, her exaggerated stance is not in keeping with science, which progresses through doubt and research, nor what European citizens expect of the European institutions, in which they must put their trust to protect their health and environment, nor is it in the interest of Europe.”