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The European Commission has been accused of covering up major concerns about
the safety and environmental hazards of GM crops and foods, March 2005 by
The environmental group Friends of the Earth has lodged a complaint with
the European Ombudsman over the EC's refusal to allow public access to the
Second Submission it made to the World Trade Organisation Dispute Panel in
August last year.
The revelations led GM Free Cymru to renew its call on the National Assembly
Government for an outright ban on GM crops and food.
The dispute centres on the claim by the United States, Canada and Argentina,
the world's three largest producers of GM crops, that the EU is breaking WTO
rules with its moratorium on GM products for human consumption.
They say that the moratorium, together with national bans in France,
Germany, Austria, Greece, Italy and Luxembourg, are not scientifically
justified and hinder the development of the technology, which they claim
could benefit health and reduce hunger.
The EU's Second Submission was considered by scientists and politicians at
the final meeting of the Dispute Panel in Geneva last month.
FoE says the submission argues that the science is constantly evolving, that
uncertainties about antibiotic resistant genes and the side effects of GM
crops on beneficial insects are legitimate scientific concerns and that EU
member states should be able to determine their own level of protection.
FoE Europe, which is monitoring the WTO case, says the submission shows that
the EC is admitting on the one hand to legitimate scientific concerns about
the safety of GM foods and crops.
But on the other hand, the EC is effectively putting people's health and the
environment at risk by forcing new GM products on to the European market
despite these concerns.
GM Free Cymru spokesman Dr Brian John said the revelations showed that the
EC attitude to GM was shot through with hypocrisy and disregard for the
health and safety of the people of Europe.
The group has written to Wales Environment Minister Carwyn Jones calling for
Wales to harden opposition to GM crops from being as restrictive as possible
to a complete ban.
Dr John said the first signs of EC doubt over the human and environmental
risks came with its First Submission to the WTO Dispute Panel.
"But we now know that by August 2004 - more than six months ago - those
doubts had become firmed up into real concerns, expressed in writing," said
"But in spite of this the EC has continued to push GM crops and foods on to
a reluctant European public."
For example, last October the EC approved the import of Monsanto NK603 maize
despite the fact that EU members failed to agree on its safety. And last
November the Commission tried to force various member states to lift their
de facto bans on GM crop plantings. Most refused, although the UK Government
was in favour.
"To call the European Commission's actions hypocritical and two-faced would
be to put it mildly," said Dr John.
"It would be more appropriate to say that it has been criminally negligent."
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