Says “grave concerns” about deregulation proposals are fully justified and not remotely “anti-science”
The ecomodernist lobby group WePlanet (formerly RePlanet) is promoting an open letter it organised that has been signed by “35 Nobel Laureates and over 1,000 scientists” calling on MEPs to push through the deregulation of new GM techniques (NGTs) that is being proposed by the European Commission and some MEPs.
Molecular geneticist and expert in genetic engineering technologies Professor Michael Antoniou sent an emailed response to an EU media outlet that ran an article on the letter, but it was not published. Prof Antoniou has given GMWatch permission to publish the slightly shortened version below.
“At face value, this letter carries a huge amount of credibility, given the scientifically eminent signatories. However, the letter is actually devoid of scientific substance and constitutes just the usual wish list of those that want NGT products deregulated so that their entry into the marketplace is expedited without any safety testing and labelling.
“In fact there is little or no evidence that NGTs can achieve any of the highly desirable traits that are touted to be achievable by these methods, such as higher yields, disease and pathogen resistance, and tolerance to environmental (abiotic) stresses (e.g. from climate change).
“Such traits are genetically complex, meaning that they have the coordinated function of large numbers of genes at their basis, which NGTs such as gene editing cannot bring about. Only natural breeding can bring the necessary combinations of genes together to achieve complex traits. Therefore, the science of contemporary molecular genetics says that NGT approaches are doomed to fail.
“Crucially, gene editing processes, taken as a whole (including plant tissue culture, cell transformation, and the action of the NGT tool), are highly prone to genome-wide, large scale unintended DNA damage, with unpredictable downstream consequences, which can include the production of novel toxins and allergens. In short, gene editing is nothing like as precise as is claimed and our knowledge of basic biology is nowhere near good enough to accurately predict its outcomes. The production of large-scale unintended mutations by NGT processes is not hypothetical; there is a large and increasing body of evidence in the peer-reviewed scientific literature demonstrating this. Yet those wishing to use NGTs in food production, and pushing for deregulation, are shockingly ignoring this evidence and its potential dire consequences for the consumer and the environment.
“Thus, the science underpinning NGTs strongly supports their continued regulation under the current EU law governing genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which is what NGT products are, whether plants, animals, or microorganisms. Anyone who argues against the continued regulation of NGT products as GMOs is not being true to the science behind this development and is putting public health and the environment at risk for the sake of the anticipated profits to be gained from their marketing.
“The WePlanet letter states: ‘We the undersigned therefore encourage you to engage with the overwhelming majority of farmers and genuine experts, not with reactive anti-science lobbyists in the Brussels bubble.’
“The content and indeed the insulting tone of this statement could not be further from the truth. First, there has not been any canvassing of the global scientific or farming community on the subject of NGTs that would justify the claim that the vast majority are in favour of deregulation. Second, I am not the only scientist in mainstream academia and expert in molecular genetics and genetic engineering technologies who harbours grave concerns about the European Commission’s proposal for deregulation of NGTs. We are not ‘reactive anti-science lobbyists in the Brussels bubble’, which in any case is a false and defamatory description of the NGOs in Brussels and elsewhere in Europe who are challenging NGT deregulation. My own experience from engaging with these organisations is that they are led by scientific evidence and a responsible determination to put people and the environment before profits.”