Monsanto, the British government, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), and the EU Commission are joining forces in EU court proceedings to prevent GM soybeans from being withdrawn from the market.
It may appear odd that Monsanto and government regulators are joining forces against the scientific and civil society organisations that are bringing a legal complaint against the EU Commission for its approval of Monsanto's Intacta GM soybeans (item 1 below).
But regulators siding with industry to defend risky products is nothing new. A 1978 book candidly advises companies how to co-opt the scientific experts involved in the regulatory process (item 2 below).
Scientific journals can also be complicit in attempts to mould regulations to suit industry. A new investigative report reveals that of 18 toxicology journal editors who signed a controversial editorial criticizing plans in Europe to regulate endocrine-disrupting chemicals, 17 have collaborated with the chemical, pharmaceutical, cosmetic, tobacco, pesticide, or biotechnology industries (item 3 below).
1. Genetically engineered soybeans in EU Court of Justice: David and Goliath
Monsanto, the EFSA, the UK Government and the EU Commission all joining forces against civil society
Testbiotech, 25 Sept 2013
Monsanto, the British Government, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the EU Commission are joining forces in EU Court proceedings to prevent risky genetically engineered soybeans from being withdrawn from the food market.
In March 2013, a group of non-governmental organisations filed a lawsuit at the Court of Justice of the European Union against an EU Commission decision allowing the use of Monsanto´s genetically engineered soybeans, Intacta, in food and feed (T-177/13-5). The complainants maintain that EFSA has not carried out the risk assessments for the genetically engineered soybean as legally required. Now Monsanto, the British Government, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) are all joining forces in court to defend the right to import the transgenic soybeans.
Intacta is a transgenic soybean similar to the controversial genetically engineered maize SmartStax. It produces an insecticide and is resistant to glyphosate herbicides (such as Roundup). Owned by Monsanto, it was authorised by the EU Commission for import and usage in food and feed in 2012. The lawsuit against this EU decision was filed by three non-profit-organisations, the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER), Sambucus, and Testbiotech. The complainants have the support of the Society for Ecological Research, the foundation Manfred-Hermsen-Stiftung for Nature Conservation and Environmental Protection, the Foundation on Future Farming, and the German Family Farmers Association (ABL).
“It looks like this coalition of industry, authorities, and politicians is aiming to discourage civil society from fighting for its rights in court. But we are not afraid,” says Annemarie Volling from the German Family Farmers Organisation. “For us this is not a power game, we are simple defending the basic rights of farmers and consumers.”
An initial reaction of the EU Commission to the arguments of the civil society groups has already been filed. However, the complainants regard the arguments of the Commission as unconvincing from both a legal and scientific point of view. Currently they are expecting more written pleas from the opposing parties, which might cause substantial rise in procedural costs.
“In general, soybeans are amongst those crops that have the highest potential to cause allergies. It is known that the insecticide produced by the transgenic plants can even cause immune reactions. Consequently, this means a higher risk to human health. And here are further risks in the interaction of the residues from spraying with herbicides and the insecticide as produced in the plants,” says Christoph Then for Testbiotech. “Despite those risks EFSA did not even request feeding studies to investigate health effects.” Testbiotech is the organisation coordinating the lawsuit and is now asking for [the] public to support it.
Foundation on Future Farming: www.zs-l.de
Society for Ecological Research: www.oekologische-forschung.de
German Family Farmers Association (ABL): www.abl-ev.de
2. The regulation game - quote
The book, "The Regulation Game: Strategic Use of the Administrative Process", is a guidebook for corporate executives on how to gain control of government risk regulatory policy-making. The book was written by the academics Bruce M Owen and Ronald Braeutigam and was published in 1978. The book provides an explicit account of one of the ways in which regulatory capture can be achieved. The authors write (p.7):
“Regulatory policy is increasingly made with the participation of experts, especially academics. A regulated firm or industry should be prepared whenever possible to co-opt these experts. This is most effectively done by identifying the leading experts in each relevant field and hiring them as consultants and advisors, or giving them research grants and the like. This activity requires a modicum of finesse; it must not be too blatant, for the experts themselves must not recognize that they have lost their objectivity and freedom of action. At a minimum, a program of this kind reduces the threat that the leading experts will be available to testify or write against the interests of the regulated firms.”
3. Scientists critical of EU chemical policy have industry ties
Stéphane Horel and Brian Bienkowski
Environmental Health News
September 23, 2013
[summary only; full article at link above]
Seventeen scientists who have criticized plans in Europe to regulate endocrine-disrupting chemicals have past or current ties to regulated industries. An investigation by Environmental Health News reveals that of 18 toxicology journal editors who signed a controversial editorial, 17 have collaborated with the chemical, pharmaceutical, cosmetic, tobacco, pesticide or biotechnology industries. Some have received research funds from industry associations, while some have served as industry consultants or advisors. The stakes are high in the controversy because it involves the European Union’s strategy to regulate hormone-altering chemicals – the first attempt in the world to do so. The new rules would have sweeping, global, ramifications because all companies that sell a variety of products in Europe would have to comply.