Once more, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has concluded that Monsanto’s genetically modified, insect-resistant maize, MON810, poses no risk to human health or the environment. And how did EFSA come to this conclusion? Why, they checked out Monsanto’s own data from the 2010 growing season, of course!
Maize MON810 expresses a toxin from the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which acts as a built-in pesticide. EFSA gave it the green light despite finding a long list of shortcomings in Monsanto’s methodology for ‘Case-Specific Monitoring’ (regarding measures to minimise insect resistance) and ‘General Surveillance’ (to acertain any adverse effects). Oddly enough, EFSA's reservations were more or less the same as in its 2009 report on MON810. But the most striking thing is that Monsanto told EFSA that it couldn’t identify any adverse effects on the environment or human and animal health related to its 2010 crop – and EFSA believed it!
It’s outrageous that the enormously influential EFSA, which demands our respect and boasts about its unquestionable scientific standards, should use Monsanto’s own version of events in determining their opinion on the safety of MON810. Monsanto has much to gain if MON810 is accepted in Europe, so there is an obvious conflict of interest here – but then, EFSA are used to such controversies.
MON810 has received plenty of unfavourable press, and has even been the subject of a Wikileak revealing that France’s original decision to ban cultivation ‘caused concern’ to the US ambassador to France. France remains determined to prevent cultivation of MON810 maize. Poland, Greece, Austria and Hungary are also opposed, but EFSA’s green light threatens to change all that.
Fortunately for Monsanto, research confirming reports of rootworm resistance to their ‘insect-resistant’ crop played no part in EFSA's assessment. The solution, according to entomologists? Plant non-GMO seed, of course!
Updated: 2 May 2012
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