EU accused of caving in to US pressure over GMOs

The European Union's Executive Commission has been accused of "caving in" to pressure from the US to adopt genetically modified (GM) foods by an alliance of environmental, farming and civil society groups.

On 20 September, the Commission will embark upon its eighth attempt to push EU Member States into accepting the import of GM maize made by US biotech food giant, Monsanto. Last week, the Commission gave the green light for commercially growing 17 varieties of GM maize, becoming the first GM seeds to be sold in Europe (see related story).

Civil society groups this week wrote to the Commission, accusing it of forcing through two GM products without either the support of the European public or the Member States, and pressurising countries to drop their national bans on GM foods and crops.

The group of organisations also criticised the Commission for arguing to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) that there is scientific uncertainty over the safety of GMOs, while at the same time pushing these products domestically in Europe.

Tests conducted by the French Commission on the variety of GM maize being voted for next week, called MON863, revealed alarming results according to the French national research body, INRA.

Rats that were fed on the MON863 maize showed significantly different levels of white blood cells, kidney weights and kidney structure, as well as lower albumin / globulin rates.

A spokesman from INRA stated: “I hear the argument for natural variability, but what struck me in this file is the number of anomalies. There are too many elements here where significant variations are observed.”

GM campaigner for Friends of the Earth, Adrian Bebb, said that the EU was trying to force more and more genetically modified foods onto the market against a backdrop of scientific disagreements.

“The European Commission is caving in to the bullying of the United States,” he said. “Their actions are undemocratic and against the will of the European public, who have made it consistently clear that they do not want to eat GM foods. Europe should stand firm against the US pressure and protect its people and environment from this genetically modified experiment.”

By Jane Kettle

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