November 29, 2012
GMOs are already in the EU, and now Séralini’s study on GM’s effects on rats has been savaged by the EU’s Food Agency in the mad rush to give Monsanto and Agribusiness what they want: free rein to sell any and all GM products they choose.
by Heidi Stevenson
It’s commonly believed that the European Union (EU) is a holdout against genetically engineered organisms (GMOs). Sadly, that’s never been entirely true, and what truth has existed is rapidly disappearing. Genetic engineering is on the verge of becoming as rampant in the EU as it is in the US.
Séralini’s GM-Feed Study Savaged
Witness today’s decision by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) that declares Séralini’s groundbreaking study, which clearly documents that GM corn causes cancer in lab rats, fails to meet “acceptable scientific standards”.
It is ludicrous to suggest such a carefully crafted study (reported by Gaia Health here) is inadequate. The study was done to the same kind of design that Monsanto-funded studies were, with major differences that made it far more rigorous than has ever been demanded of industry for approval of GM products.
So what are the EFSA’s complaints about Séralini’s study? They claim serious defects in the study’s design and methodology, specifically:
Unclear study objectives, the low number of rats used in each treatment group, a lack of detail on the feed and treatment formulation, key information missing on the statistical methods employed and incomplete endpoint reporting.
Let’s take a look at those claims:
Unclear study objectives: The introduction of their report clearly documents the reasons for their study, sources supporting their concerns, and the fact that they were doing a more thorough and longer term study than had previously been done, that they would do detailed blood and urine samples on the animals, that they would check for more parameters than are required by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), that they were doing a lifetime study, and that they were testing 3 different doses of the GM corn, plus they were testing the effects of glyphosate alone. What’s unclear?
Low number of rats used in each treatment group: The Séralini study states, “This remains the highest number of rats regularly measured in a standard GMO diet study.” There is also the fact that any study using a small number of rats is significantly less likely to demonstrate a statistically significant number of adverse effects, so the fact that so many of their rats did suffer severely bad effects clarifies its significance.
Lack of detail on the feed and treatment formulation: The Séralini study goes into great depth to describe the feed, even to the point of specifying the particular feed used and measuring both food and water fed to the rats, which is well beyond the standards followed by industry-controlled studies. To suggest that the study was lacking in this area is farcical.
Key information missing on the statistical methods employed: In this area, Séralini himself agrees. However, he never stated that his study was, or was intended to be, the final say—but that it does indicate the pressing need for further studies and pulling back from the mad rush towards wholesale use of GM crops.
Incomplete endpoint reporting: Seriously, what do they want to know? Rats died, and the conditions under which they died were clearly noted. Rats developed horrific tumors, and they were carefully noted. Tissue samples were examined and documented. Lab results were recorded.
They even provided a table documenting distinctions between their study and two others that were considered acceptable by regulators. Here it is:
Séralini’s study clarified more detail than industry standard studies and was considerably more rigorous. Yet, the EFSA claims the opposite!
Séralini’s detractors have frequently questioned whether his study has any relevance to humans. Interestingly, though, they don’t seem particularly concerned that similar, but less thorough and shorter-term studies on the same kinds of animals, even down to the particular genetic line used, were used to falsely demonstrate that GM corn was safe.
The EU GM Reality
The reality is that the EU is rapidly becoming GM-friendly. In fact, according to Greenpeace International’s Executive Director, Kumi Naidoo, the EU is close to opening the GM Pandora’s box. As many as 26 GM crops could soon be approved by the EU Commission, and 19 of them are genetically engineered to be glyphosate (Roundup) tolerant.
It’s already clear from the United States’ experience that glyphosate-tolerant crops result in devastated soils and truly Frankensteinian weeds that grow enormously big and aggressively.
If there was any doubt before today about the EU’s intentions, surely there cannot be any now. It’s full speed ahead for GM crops in the EU. According to Naidoo:
If we are to learn anything from the experiences of the American farmers, European farmers can expect inflated seed prices, more expenses for buying much more pesticides and the heavy labour and increasing costs trying to get rid of resistant weeds that inevitably follow HTGE crops.
The EU and GM Beets
It isn’t yet legal to grow GM beets in the EU. However, the EFSA drafted a statement saying that:
… products produced from sugar beet H7-1 are unlikely to have any adverse effect on human and animal health or the environment in the context of its intended uses.
This is obviously deeply flawed reasoning. Nonetheless, the EU has allowed the importation of genetically engineered beet sugar and GE beets for animal feed since 2008! While it’s [still] necessary to label any products with sugar made from genetically engineered beets, animals fed this poison feed do not have to be labeled! Field tests to grow GE beets in the EU are scheduled for 2015.
Clearly, things are not quite as most people, both European and non-Europeans, have believed.
The EU and Genetically Engineered Animals
According to Public Service Europe, earlier this year the EFSA:
… took steps to open our markets to genetically modified animals, by publishing guidelines for their introduction. The guidelines, commissioned by the European Commission on behalf of the European Food Safety Authority give biotech companies the capability to seek permission to develop GM animals like salmon, pig, sheep and chicken.
No, the citizens of the EU don’t want GM animals or dairy products. But that is meaningless to the EFSA and EU Commission. In spite of a broad coalition of environmental and animal welfare groups, food producer and processor associations, breeders, family farmers, consumer cooperatives, and organic food organizations writing to the EU Commission to ask that drafting of such guidelines be stopped until the people with a stake in the GM issue can decide whether they want such foods produced.
John Dalli, the EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, simply confirmed that the work on these technical guidances would continue as they’d planned. He and the Commission acted as if the people of the EU who have the most to lose, whose very existence may be at threat, are worth no more than a fly to be swatted and then ignored.
The EU Commission
Although the EU has, in the past, been a holdout against genetically engineered crops and foods, the fact is that something major has happened to change the dynamics of how decisions are made. That change was the Lisbon Treaty and the subsequent writing of the EU Constitution.
The people of the EU did not vote for the finalization of a European Union. When it became obvious in Ireland and France that the people weren’t cooperating with their betters and blindly voting to join the EU and give up national sovereignty, an end-run around them was organized in the form of the Lisbon Treaty. That treaty did not require the vote of the people, because treaties have traditionally simply been organized and signed by their leading politicians.
So the people were cut out of the final formation of the EU. That led to the drafting of the EU’s constitution, a most pernicious document. It enshrines personhood for corporations. That’s a clear statement placing the desires and will of international business interests before the will and needs of the people.
The EU Commission, originally intended to be one of three balancing legs of the EU government, is an extremely bureaucratic organization headed by an appointed commissioner. It is, to all intents and purposes, equivalent to a dictatorship. If one writes a letter to a Member of European Parliament who’s in sympathy with the issue brought out, one will receive an enlightening response. The fact is that, though the EU Parliament was meant to be the originator of laws, the reality is that the Commission does what it wishes. Thus, the only elected portion of the EU government, Parliament, is toothless.
The EU Commission answers only to multinational corporations, like those of Agribusiness. As a result, what Agribusiness wants, Agribusiness will get.
And Agribusiness wants GM crops. So the EU Commission is working with alacrity to give it to them. The result is already less than what the people want—a GMO-free continent. We already have been invaded by GM beets. It’s merely a matter of time before our land, food, and bodies are thoroughly contaminated by the monstrosities produced by Monsanto, BASF, Syngenta, Dow, and just a small number of other masters of the economics of agriculture.
Whatever it takes will be done, from fraudulently savaging a superb and badly-overdue study by Séralini to ignoring the people’s wishes and simply approving whatever Agribusiness wants, the EU Commission and its minions will provide it.
A GMO-Free European Union is a myth.
Séralini, G.-E., et al. Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize. Food Chem. Toxicol. (2012),http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.fct.2012.08.005