Brussels has mounted a vigorous defence of the way it evaluates GM crops and rejected accusations that it operates to double standards.
The claim was made by environmental groups Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth who this week published extracts of the EU Commission’s submissions to the World Trade Organisation in defence of its former moratorium against GMs.
In these documents, the commission states that “there is simply no way of ascertaining whether the introduction of GM products has had any other effect on human health… there is no scientific cut off threshold available to decide whether a GM product is safe or not”.
The environmental groups also point to “huge disagreements” between the commission and the European Food Safety Authority.
“In one example, the commission criticises EFSA for not requiring further investigations after dismissing scientific evidence that showed that a certain GMO had negative effects on earthworms.”
Friends of the Earth campaigner Adrian Bebb described the findings as “a political scandal”.
“When the EU Commission broke the moratorium and forced new GM foods into Europe, it told the public they were safe,” he said.
“Now we know that behind closed doors the commission was arguing the complete opposite.”
But EU food safety spokesman Philip Tod accused Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth of using selective quotes to paint a distorted picture.
“These reports, which only refer to the 1999 to 2003 period before we changed our legislation, were used to explain to the WTO panel why, in certain cases, we were taking more time to assess individual GMs.
At the end of the day these assessments were completed, revealing no risk to food safety or the environment.
“The documents, which run to over 400 pages, are extremely complex and the two environmental groups have quoted selectively from them,” Mr Tod added.
The commission reports, which were submitted to the WTO’s investigation into the EU’s moratorium, have been obtained under the EU’s access to documents legislation and can be downloaded from www.foeeurope.org/biteback/EC_case.htm