Press Release 05/13

21 October 2013

No scientific consensus on safety of genetically modified organisms - Scientists release statement as World Food Prize goes to Monsanto and Syngenta

There is no scientific consensus on the safety of genetically modified foods and crops, according to a statement released today by an international group of 93 scientists, academics and physicians.

Pas de consensus scientifique sur la sécurité des organismes génétiquement modifiés - Déclaration de scientifiques en réaction au Prix mondial de l’alimentation décerné à Monsanto et Syngenta

Il n'y a pas de consensus scientifique relatif à la sécurité des aliments et cultures génétiquement modifiés (GM), selon un communiqué publié aujourd'hui par un groupe international de 93 scientifiques, universitaires et médecins.

Kein wissenschaftlicher Konsens hinsichtlich Sicherheit gentechnisch veränderter Organismen - Wissenschaftler veröffentlichen Stellungnahme zu der Vergabe des Welternährungspreises an Monsanto und Syngenta

Laut einer heute veröffentlichten Stellungnahme einer internationalen Gruppe von 93 Wissenschaftlern, Akademikern und Ärzten gibt es gibt keinen wissenschaftlichen Konsens hinsichtlich der Sicherheit gentechnisch veränderter Lebensmittel und Pflanzen.

No existe consenso sobre la seguridad de los organismos modificados genéticamente - Científicos emiten una declaración al mismo tiempo que Monsanto y Syngenta reciben el Premio Mundial de la Alimentación

No existe un consenso científico sobre la seguridad de los cultivos y alimentos modificados genéticamente (MG), sostiene una declaración emitida hoy por un grupo internacional de 93 científicos, académicos y médicos.

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No scientific consensus on safety of genetically modified organisms
Scientists release statement as World Food Prize goes to Monsanto and Syngenta
Press release, ENSSER, 21 October 2013


German/ English contact: Angelika Hilbeck ahilbeck@ensser.org / Tel.: +49 30 20 654 857
French contact: Nicolas Defarge ndefarge@ensser.org / Tel.: +33 76 045 5677
Spanish contact: Rosa Binimelis rbinimelis@ensser.org / Tel.: +34-65 223 2057

www.ensser.org/media/


There is no scientific consensus on the safety of genetically modified foods and crops, according to a statement released today by an international group of more than 90 scientists, academics and physicians.[1]

The statement comes in response to recent claims from the GM industry and some scientists, journalists, and commentators that there is a “scientific consensus” that GM foods and crops were generally found safe for human and animal health and the environment. The statement calls these claims “misleading”, adding, “This claimed consensus on GMO safety does not exist.”

"Such claims may place human and environmental health at undue risk and create an atmosphere of complacency," states Dr. Angelika Hilbeck, chairperson of the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER) and one of the signatories. “The statement draws attention to the diversity of opinion over GMOs in the scientific community and the often contradictory or inconclusive findings of studies on GMO safety. These include toxic effects on laboratory animals fed GM foods, increased pesticide use from GM crop cultivation, and the unexpected impacts of Bt insecticidal crops on beneficial and non-target organisms,” Dr Hilbeck continues.

In spite of this nuanced and complex picture, a group of like-minded people makes sweeping claims that GM crops and foods are safe. In reality, many unanswered questions remain and in some cases there is serious cause for concern.

Prof C. Vyvyan Howard, a medically qualified toxicopathologist based at the University of Ulster and a signatory to the statement, said: “A substantial number of studies suggest that GM crops and foods can be toxic or allergenic. It is often claimed that millions of Americans eat GM foods with no ill effects. But as the US has no GMO labeling and no epidemiological studies have been carried out, there is no way of knowing whether the rising rates of chronic diseases seen in that country have anything to do with GM food consumption or not. Therefore this claim has no scientific basis.”

The signatories to the statement call for the compliance to the precautionary approach to GM crops and foods internationally agreed upon in the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and UN’s Codex Alimentarius.

Commenting on the statement, one of the signatories, Prof Ernst-Ulrich von Weizsäcker, Co-Chair of the International Resource Panel (UNEP) and Co-President of The Club of Rome, said: “The future of food and agriculture is one of the great challenges of humankind of the 21st century. The claim of scientific consensus on GMO safety is misleading and misrepresents diverse and inconclusive scientific evidence. The full range of scientific research needs to be taken into account, in open, transparent and honest debates which involve the broader society, when decisions of global concern are being made. This is a responsibility of scientists and science.”

Another signatory to the statement, Prof Brian Wynne, associate director and co-principal investigator from 2002-2012 of the UK ESRC Centre for the Economic and Social Aspects of Genomics, Cesagen, Lancaster University, said: “It is misleading and irresponsible for anyone to claim that there is a consensus on these important issues. Many salient questions remain open, while more are being discovered and reported by independent scientists in the international scientific literature. Indeed answering of some key public interest questions based on such research have been left neglected for years by the huge imbalance in research funding, against thorough biosafety research and in favour of the commercial-scientific promotion of the technology.”

This statement is released by ENSSER the week after the World Food Prize was awarded to employees of the GM seed giants Monsanto and Syngenta. This award has provoked outrage worldwide and stands in stark contrast to recent rulings in several countries restricting or banning the field release or commercialisation of certain GM crops. These include 9 countries in Europe and Mexico, but also developing countries like Bangladesh, Philippines, India where an indefinite moratorium on field release trials was recommended by the Technical Expert Committee of the Supreme Court unless certain conditions are met including proper safety testing. [2, 3, 4, 5] Furthermore, GMO approvals are under legal challenge in Argentina and Brazil due to questions over the scientific basis of approvals. [6] Most if not all of them underline the lack of proof of safety and insufficient testing.

Signatories of the statement include prominent and respected scientists, including Dr Hans Herren, a former winner of the World Food Prize and this year's Alternative Nobel Prize laureate, and Dr Pushpa Bhargava, known as the father of modern biotechnology in India.

ENDS

Notes
1. www.ensser.org/media/

2. on court ruling in Mexico:
Press Release of La Acción Colectiva
Information at Environmental and Food Justice

3. on court ruling in the Philippines (CA-G.R. SP No. 00013):
Court Decision of 17.05.2013
GMA News on Court Decision of 20.09.2013 upholding the first ruling

4. on recommendations in India (Writ Petition (Civil) No. 260 of 2005):
Final Report of the Technical Expert Committee (TEC)
Covering Letter of the Final Report
Press Brief of Lead Petitioner

5. on Bangladesh:
www.gmwatch.org/index.php/news/archive/2013/15090-high-court-bars-gm-eggplant-s-release-in-bangladesh

6. on Argentina and Brazil:
www.gmwatch.org/index.php/news/archive/2013/15099


Further statements of signatories:

Andy Stirling, professor of science and technology policy at Sussex University and formerly a member of the UK government’s GM Science Review Panel, said: “The main reason some multinationals prefer GM technologies over the many alternatives is that GM offers more lucrative ways to control intellectual property and global supply chains. To sideline open discussion of these issues, related interests are now trying to deny the many uncertainties and suppress scientific diversity. This undermines democratic debate – and science itself.”

Dr Arpad Pusztai, signatory to the statement and Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, said: "Testing GM food properly would serve the interest of the biotech industry, as well. As Dr Richard P. Feynman said: ‘For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.’ “

The document is now open for further signatures and all agreeing with the content are invited to sign the statement at: www.ensser.org