The Guest Blog

Guest post by Marcel Kuntz, director of research at CNRS in Grenoble, France; Agnès E. Ricroch, lecturer at AgroParisTech in Paris; and John Davison, retired director of research at INRA Versailles.

EU governments are ignoring on their own scientific risk evaluation committees and creating false pseudo-scientific documents for political gain, argue Marcel Kuntz, Agnès E. Ricroch and John Davison.

In May 2013, European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) received a request from the Italian Government for an emergency measure under Regulation (EC) No 1829/2003 to prohibit the cultivation of genetically engineered maize MON 810. EFSA has now rejected this request since it contains no new scientific relevant to human and animal health or the environment. In fact the Italian document was a word-by-word translation of the French emergency measures document submitted in February 2012 and EFSA politely noted that it “in its supporting documentation, the Italian authorities refer to the same concerns previously raised by France”.

In our previous communications in (Kuntz, Davison and Ricroch 2013) Euractiv and Nature Biotechnology we have shown that the French request (and thus also the Italian request) was a false pseudo-scientific document written by non-identified persons and by-passing the competent national scientific panels concerned with the biosafety of genetically engineered organisms. In the French document, studies were cherry-picked to suit the political aims, and authentic scientific reports, including those of the EFSA, were distorted, misquoted and falsely interpreted. Other scientific articles relevant to the subject and providing a different picture were ignored. Rebuttals from several scientists cited in the French document are also made public in our communication.

The French, Italian (and also German) governments are thus taking a false path independent of the normal scientific scrutiny of their own biosafety agencies and are deliberately misinforming their citizens about imaginary dangers of GMOs. In addition, the Italian motivation seems simply to gain time; since the Italian Government must surely have been aware that their word-by-word translation of the French document that had already been refused by EFSA, would also not fool EFSA when submitted a second time in Italian.

We feel that it is now time to stop this farce, where politicians feel free to ignore scientific advice and to make decisions based solely on political motives and personal prejudices. This is a path that will lead us back to the dark ages. We need political responsibility towards scientific truth. That certain non-governmental organizations that pretend to be defenders of the environment, are unable to rationally examine the scientific facts is regrettable but not unexpected. However when the governments of EU member states openly undermine the credibility of EFSA and other national risk evaluation committees by creating false pseudoscientific documents, it raises the question of access to objective scientific information for European citizens.

The conclusion of our previous Euractiv article remains unchanged These member states are ignoring the fact that EFSA is the only guarantee of scientific objectivity available to the EC, and the last and weakened barrier to prevent arbitrary decisions from submerging the EU each time alleged risk issues are evoked”.

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