By Adam Smith
Science and communications officer, ANH-Intl
Stop press! Just after we published this article, Jeffrey Smith of the Institute of Responsible Technology released news of US doctors who are achieving remarkable results by putting their patients on diets free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Yet more evidence that GMOs are very bad news. Now read on to see how the European Commission plans to introduce these health and environmental disasters into Europe on a wide basis, against the wishes of a majority of Europeans...
The European Commission (EC) has decided that Europeans are going to eat genetically modified organisms (GMOs) – whether they want to or not. How will it achieve this? Pretend they’re the same as conventional crops, and avoid precaution entirely.
This madness must be stopped at all costs — and the long-standing resistance of European citizens must be respected.
Remember these words, because you’ll be hearing variations on them a lot over the coming months. They are the words of Professor Anne Glover, the EC’s first ever Chief Scientific Advisor. Professor Glover’s words — at least in the field of GMOs — should send a chill through anyone concerned about the integrity of our food supply, the viability of organic farming and food production, and the health of ourselves and our children.
“There is no substantiated case of any adverse impact [of GMOs] on human health, animal health or environmental health, so that’s pretty robust evidence”, Glover told EurActiv online news and information service recently. “I would be confident in saying that there is no more risk in eating GMO food than eating conventionally farmed food”.
And thus begins a new war over the food on your plate – an undeclared war on citizens and the environment in which we all live. This feature may be about the pressure that European citizens once again find themselves under, but many similar stories exist worldwide of governments pushing GM foods on their populations.
So who is Anne Glover, and why should we be concerned about what she has to say? She’s a molecular biologist by training, who holds current a Chair in Molecular & Cell Biology at the University of Aberdeen and who has numerous academic publications under her belt. Her glittering career has included a stint as the first-ever Chief Scientific Advisor for Scotland and an award as a Woman of Outstanding Achievement. At some point, she clearly caught the eye of European Commission President, José Manuel Barroso, who appointed her his Chief Scientific Advisor in December 2011.
Along with her pro-GMO position, Glover’s professorship at the University of Aberdeen and honorary position at Rowett Research Institute likely made her the ideal candidate for the high-level EC advisory job. Rowett Research Institute, itself affiliated to the University of Aberdeen, was after all the institution that worked to destroy the career of Dr Arpad Pusztai for blowing the whistle on the damaging effects of GMOs, after he led one of the very few detailed GM animal studies ever conducted.
In an interview given soon after her EC appointment, Glover made it clear just how wonderful she thought GMOs were. Just so that the reader knows exactly where the most powerful scientist in the EU stands on GM, here's a few key quotes from Prof Glover herself:
On the issue of how ‘natural’ GM is, please check out another story we’ve issued in parallel to this one. That article shows clearly why that the biotech industry’s favourite argument – that genetic engineering of crops is a simple extension of traditional plant breeding – is pure and simple disinformation .
In coming to these astonishingly black-and-white opinions on GMOs, which hold the opinions of the people of Europe in utter contempt, has this experienced scientist consulted widely among scientists and campaigners on both sides of the GMO fence – as is only responsible for someone with the ear of the EC President? Clearly, she's studied the work of the pro-GM camp. But has she spoken to any or all of the world-renowned scientists, such as geneticist Professor Joe Cummins of the University of Western Ontario and others, who have quite a different view to Prof Glover – a view based on a considerable body of documented evidence of harm? Or has she researched the work of probably the most informed anti-GMO campaigner in the world, Jeffrey Smith of the Institute for Responsible Technology, who has made it his business to collate all of the evidence on GM from across the planet? He is author of Seeds of Deception and Genetic Roulette.
Jeffrey Smiths book, Genetic Roulette
How has Prof Glover managed to ignore all of the evidence pulled together by GM scientists who recently drafted the most comprehensive scientific appraisal of GM to date, and found that, “Conventional plant breeding...continues to outperform GM in producing high-yield, drought-tolerant, and pest- and disease-resistant crops that can meet our present and future food needs”? Did Prof Glover pick up the phone to Prof Don Huber for a chat about his concerns over Monsanto's glyphosate pesticide? Has she heard of F. William Engdahl, or read his book Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation? Did she speak to anti-GM campaigners at GeneWatch, GM Freeze, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace...? The list goes on.
Frankly, we think it would be impossible for an impartial and knowledgeable scientist to reach Prof Glover's conclusions on GM if they performed a genuinely wide-ranging consultation among the spectrum of opinion on the topic. We certainly know that she didn't consult with anyone at ANH about GM, for example, and we suspect that she hasn't spoken to anyone on our side of the fence, or even read very much of what those of us who are deeply concerned about the increasing adoption of GM crops globally have to say.
That conclusion, of course, assumes that Prof Glover is 'impartial'.
Prof Glover is now the top scientific advisor to EC President Barroso, and – apart from her undeniable scientific credentials – she will likely have been chosen for the job at least partly because her views tend to coincide with those of her boss. No point hiring an advisor you're going to disagree with all the time, after all. So what does Barroso think of GM?
A 2008 investigation by the Institute of Science in Society (I-SIS) provides a few clues. It reported not only that Barroso was, “At the heart of the EU's pro-GM lobby”, but that he was, “Trying to get member states to agree on GMOs behind closed doors, so that there are no more unqualified majorities”. At the time, he was reportedly trying to lift the EU's 'zero tolerance' policy on GMOs, a goal which is on the verge of being achieved. A 'technical zero' of 0.1% GMO contamination of animal feed was introduced in July 2011 under Regulation EC 619/2011, which looks set to be extended to human food and food ingredients, according to an answer given to Member of the UK Parliament Zac Goldsmith (search the linked Hansard page for 'Goldsmith') on 2nd July 2012.
It looks rather as if a fanatically pro-GM EC President has chosen a fanatically pro-GM scientific advisor to provide a respectable, 'evidence-based' public face for the EC's policy of not only ramming GM down our throats but also cultivating it on European soil as widely as possible. We can only speculate whether the US brand of gunpoint diplomacy on GMOs has borne fruit.
The precautionary principle is well defined on Wikipedia: “The precautionary principle or precautionary approach states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking the action.” Never has there been a technology more deserving of the precautionary principle than GMOs! The precautionary principle is even enshrined in EU law, and provides an obvious stumbling block for any vested interests wishing to introduce GM crops on a widespread basis in the EU.
In the latest pronouncement from Prof Glover, we can clearly see how the Commission intends to sidestep the precautionary principle as it relates to GMOs. “There is no substantiated case of any adverse impact [of GMOs] on human health, animal health or environmental health...I would be confident in saying that there is no more risk in eating GMO food than eating conventionally farmed food”. What Prof Glover's really saying is: If GMO food is basically the same as non-GMO food, then what's all the fuss about? In her opinion, science has shown conclusively that consumers aren't risking their health by eating GMOs any more than by eating organic food, so EU laws on the precautionary principle don't apply. In fact, the Commission would be doing EU citizens a disservice if it wasted time and money trying to prevent GMOs from getting into the human food supply!
The ‘polluter pays’ principle is itself a direct offshoot of the precautionary principle, and represents a second thorn in the side for GM crop producers. Under it, the party responsible for pollution that damages the environment becomes responsible for paying for the damage – simple, elegant and fair. Of course, if the EC continues to pretend there is no evidence that GM crops are harmful, there's no need for GMO producers to worry about having to pay when their products contaminate non-GMO crops, because that kind of 'pollution' isn't really pollution at all! Another problem, another legal bodyswerve.
One has to ask, how can the biotech companies and governments claim that food made from patented GM crops will be cheaper than those from their non-GMO equivalents? The answer is simple. It becomes increasingly costly to maintain non-GMO crops free of GM contamination. It costs money to maintain production processes that won’t be contaminated, and to pay for batch tests that confirm absence of GMOs. The lower the threshold of tolerance is set, the more expensive it becomes to avoid contamination. But why should the non-GMO producer – and we, the consumers – pay the price to remain uncontaminated when the contamination is coming from a handful of companies, such as Monsanto, BASF, Bayer and Aventis, that produce GM crops for global distribution?
Isn’t it time to turn things on its head – or should we say, turn things the right way around – and ensure the polluter covers the costs of their contamination or pollution of the world? That’s the way it’s done, after all, with most other corporate polluters.
If the EC, led by Barroso, Prof Glover and their ilk, has its way, it won't be long before GMOs are widely distributed through the European environment and in the majority of foods eaten, whether fruit, veg, meat, fish, milk, eggs or grains. Organic farming will simply not be able to exist in the EU because of the cost of trying to avoid GMO contamination. Eating and drinking – the single most important and necessary act that humans perform, after breathing, although we'll be breathing in GM pollen as well – will be tainted, possibly forever. Giant corporations like Monsanto will own the world's food supply, with no requirement to pay for the environmental and human health damage they wreak. And our health, and that of our children and all who come after them, will be put at incalculable risk.
In the coming months, we'll be doing everything in our power to keep track of what's going on in the corridors of power in the EU as regards GMOs. We'll be keeping you informed every step of the way, because we need you to work with us, and others, who are trying to prevent the pro-GM bulldozer from sweeping aside the long-standing objections to GMOs held by the people of every EU Member State surveyed. The only way we can stop the EC from unleashing a flood of GMOs into the EU and onto our plates is to help create a unified voice, a groundswell of determination to resist what our self-appointed masters have in store for us. Without us, they are nothing, and we can stop them.
It's been done before. Let's do it again. We have no choice.
Updated: 1 Aug 2012
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