In a continent where populist, antediluvian views about genetically modified (GM) seeds and foods seem to dominate headlines, it is always reassuring that at least the serious scientists agree on their safety.
Last week, the European Food Safety Authority, which is normally independent of political interference (despite the best attempts of certain member states, including France, to meddle with its opinions), declared that France’s latest ban on Monsanto’s MON810 maize was yet another populist, protectionist reflex. Mind you, EFSA can never say that directly. Its opinions are always very carefully worded, such as the latest finding that “based on the documentation submitted by France, there is no specific scientific evidence, in terms of risk to human and animal health or the environment, that would support the adoption of an emergency measure on the cultivation of maize MON 810.”
“Neither the scientific publications cited in the French Authorities’ report with relevance to maize MON 810 nor the arguments put forward by France reveal any new information that would invalidate the previous risk assessment conclusions and risk management recommendations made by the EFSA GMO Panel,” EFSA said in its statement.
In other words–which EFSA can’t say, of course–the French ban is yet another trumped up excuse to satisfy the Green/organic/slow food lobby with a ban that lacks all scientific justification and is basically disgraceful in an age where most civilized nations make regulatory decisions on the basis of facts and evidence and the scientific method.
Let the record show that this is the third time that France has banned MON810–which has been grown successfully in Spain and Portugal and other countries for more than 15 years. The first two bans were struck down by France’s highest Court. MON810 has also won against its mystically minded critics in Germany (pollen in honey case) and the European Court of Justice. French farmers are also challenging France’s latest ban in court, and the ban likely will be struck down again, for exactly the same reason it was struck down the first two times.
In fact, despite the fact that several otherwise civilised countries have banned it for bogus reasons, MON810 has received more than 50 “positive opinions” or regulatory bills of clean health around the world over almost two decades. It has been grown and consumed and contributed to safe, nutritious, balanced diets in more than a dozen countries. And it will soon go off-patent, allowing more countries to benefit from its built-in protection from a voracious and destructive class of insects in the Lepidoptera order, including the European Corn Borer.
The thing which makes European nations’ bans on MON810 all the more ludicrous, hypocritical and just plain wrong is that Green critics have demonized it for creating “toxins” or “poisons” for pests while in fact the very same protein produced by MON810, Bt, which stands for Bacillus thuringiensis, is allowed by European and U.S. rules governing organic farming.
What do you think? Should the use of the Bt “poison” (their words, not ours) be banned in organic agriculture as well, just to be fair?