“It must be as if the study had never happened,” said French MEP Corinne Lepage, who also challenged EU science adviser Anne Glover over her conflicts of interest with industry.
Below are two reports from the press conference at the European Parliament called by Prof GE Séralini after the retraction of his study on GM maize and Roundup by the editor of Food and Chemical Toxicology, Dr A. Wallace Hayes.
Item 1 is an excerpt from the speech by the Member of the European Parliament and former French minister for the environment, Corinne Lepage. Lepage states that the aim of the lobbyists’ bullying of Hayes to retract the study is to shut down forever the very notion of long-term studies on GMOs.
Prof Séralini states in his book, Tous Cobayes (Flammarion, 2012), that if GMO companies were forced to conduct long-term tests on GMOs, they would not be financially viable.
We conclude that there is a lot at stake in ensuring that such long-term tests are never required. What better way than to erase from the record an experiment that showed that the long-term health effects of GMOs can ONLY be seen in a long-term study?
The fact that long-term effects require long-term studies may seem obvious, but it’s apparently beyond the comprehension of GMO regulators worldwide, none of whom require tests of longer than 90 days in rats (about 7 years in human terms). It’s a case of “don’t look, don’t see”.
Item 2 is an article on the press conference from the French press. Please note that Mme Lepage is quoted in this article as saying that the EU chief scientist Anne Glover formerly worked for Monsanto. This is a mistake, for which Mme Lepage has apologised. However, Mme Lepage’s chief of staff Francois Damerval followed up by asking Glover to publish her declaration of interests, which she did.
According to Glover’s declaration, as reported by Damerval, she is a shareholder in a small biotech company (its name and details of patents owned and sold are still unknown). She sits on the board of a learned society, Science Business, alongside representatives of Microsoft, Sanofi and BP; members include biotechnology companies.
Damerval writes, “All this would not matter if Ms. Glover had not taken since her appointment an extremely partisan position in favour of GMOs, and especially if she did not hold public office. But the Commission is responsible for ensuring the general interest of Europeans and not the special interest of companies producing GMOs. This situation is particularly serious because the free trade agreement with the United States led by the Barroso Commission has as its stated objective the reduction, and, if possible, the elimination of regulations put in place in Europe to ensure food safety for Europeans — as well as the mass dissemination of GMOs.”
Damerval adds that Glover’s PR “offensives” promoting GMOs and the principle of “innovation” are “not neutral”.
Four appeals from Corinne Lepage
Press conference called by Prof GE Seralini at the European Parliament, 28 November 2013
[English translation from French transcript by Claire Robinson of GMWatch]
“A few concluding words. Before we go to questions, I think you understand that this issue of the retraction of the study by Gilles-Eric Séralini goes far beyond the question of the study itself. What they want is in fact to close a door that we had opened slightly, allowing for long-term studies on the impact of pesticides and GMOs on human health. The study by Gilles-Eric Séralini should not have happened. But it did happen. Now it must be as if it had never happened! And I draw your attention to the fact that, although a willingness was expressed by health organizations to launch similar studies, starting with ANSES, which recognized the absolute necessity [for such a study], nothing has yet been concretely launched.
This means that we will not have results for three or four years, even assuming that studies will be started now. Which brings me back to what I was saying earlier about the pressure that is exerted on the current European leaders. I am thinking about Mr Barroso and his team, who are absolutely ready to listen to the U.S. siren-calls for a free trade agreement, to the eventual cost of the health and food supply of European consumers.
So I ask four things:
- First, I call to action all scientists worthy of the name, just as professor [Paul] Deheuvels did earlier. He simply wants the progress of knowledge. [Scientists should] mobilise against the current consolidation in scientific publishing and for an end to the control exercised by the lobbies – and Mr [Richard E.] Goodman is an excellent example – on what can or cannot be published. Global knowledge and the advancement of science are at stake.
- Second, I appeal to all consumer organizations and European citizens to mobilize to show their opposition to the takeover of their health and diet by lobbies.
- I call for an end to what in reality are no longer merely conflicts of interest – but are the occupation of posts of responsibility by persons from lobbies in defence of their interests… And I am thinking first and in particular of Ms. [EU chief scientist Anne] Glover and a number of people at EFSA.
- Finally, I appeal to the Council to finally reach a position on the vote of the first reading, which was adopted by the European Parliament in 2011 and which would at least allow European states to not legally cultivate GMOs on their territory if they so wish, and to require comprehensive studies to be carried out. It is vital that this text appears before the free trade agreements are concluded (not that I want them to be). Thank you. We are at your disposal for questions…”
GMOs: Accusations of lobbyists’ influence in Brussels
AFP, 28 Nov 2013
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[English translation from the French by Claire Robinson of GMWatch]
The attempt to “disappear” a critical and controversial study on a GMO commercialized in the EU demonstrates the growing influence of lobbyists on processes of expertise and is “a threat to food safety”, a group of elected European representatives and scientists charged in Brussels on Thursday.
“Today I want to sound an alarm call against the takeover of the lobbies. This is extremely worrying for our society,” announced the French Liberal MEP Corinne Lepage, former Minister of the Environment, during a press conference at the European Parliament.
Lepage was alarmed by the decision of the scientific journal Food and Chemical Toxicology to retract the controversial study of French Professor Gilles-Eric Séralini, which demonstrated the toxicity of GM maize NK603, developed by the U.S. company Monsanto.
The journal had published the study by the French researcher in November 2012 and at the time, FCT had fiercely defended its decision to publish.
But on 19 November, the editor of FCT, A. Wallace Hayes, backtracked. While admitting he found no evidence of fraud in the study, he announced that the article will soon be “withdrawn from the publication”.
Present at the press conference along with other scientists and representatives of civil society organizations, Mr. Séralini does not intend to let the matter drop.
The decision of the editor of FCT “aims to complete the process of discrediting” the study, charged Ms. Lepage.
This amounts in effect to erasing the existence of this study, which can no longer be taken as a reference for risk assessment when considering applications for authorization of GMOs for food and especially for cultivation in the EU.
The decision of the journal follows the “arrival on the editorial board of Richard Goodman, a biologist who worked for several years at Monsanto,” said Mr. Séralini.
There have already been precedents. A study on another GMO conducted by a team of Brazilian researchers has simply not been published [by FCT], said the French researcher. [GMW: In fact it was published by FCT but immediately retracted and then published by another journal]
“Séralini’s study is a pioneering experiment and needs to be confirmed,” pleaded Paul Deheuvels, member of the Academy of Sciences.
The intervention by the lobbies aims to avoid that, said Corinne Lepage. “They want to close the door to long-term studies,” she complained.
Authorization of new GMOs
The elected member of the European Parliament [Lepage] called for scientists to take action to end the pressure on journals. She also called for the departure of people with links to lobbies employed by the European Commission and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which is responsible for the risk assessment of GMOs.
Corinne Lepage cited by name Anne Glover, “formerly of Monsanto”, [GMW: See correction in our commentary above -- Glover has not worked for Monsanto but has other conflicts of interest] who was engaged as EU Scientific Advisor by the President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso, and whom Lepage accused of “making regular pro-GMO statements”.
The process of risk assessment of GMOs conducted by EFSA has for years been under fire from critics in the European Parliament. But member states refuse to intervene.
Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), an NGO based in Brussels, demonstrated in a study that 59% of members of EFSA working groups have conflicts of interest with industry.
The result is a “very weak risk assessment in the EU,” said Nina Holland of CEO.
The European Commission and EFSA reject these accusations.
But European institutions have the greatest difficulty in regulating the activities of lobbyists.
A register has been instituted, but registration is done on a voluntary basis and groups like Monsanto refuse to cooperate.
The press conference organised on Thursday by Corinne Lepage comes as EU Member States must decide in the coming weeks on a new application for authorization to cultivate a GM maize found safe by EFSA.
A Monsanto representative responded by saying that the study by Professor Séralini was condemned a year ago for its lack of credibility.