From Michael Meacher, 15 August 2005

GM Food Safety

At the Food Standards Agency Open Board meeting being held today 11am-1pm at the TUC, demands will be made to end the scandal of 7 years of cover-up about the safety of GM food and feed. Despite the Government's continuing determination to introduce GM food and GM animal feed into country in defiance of overwhelming public opinion (as constantly polled) in both the EU and the UK, there have still been virtually no independent tests whatever of the health effects of eating GM foods on human beings, and no attempt is being made to set up any such controlled tests - indeed the Government is determined to ensure that no such tests shall be undertaken. The only real independent testing ever carried out was undertaken by Dr. Arpad Pusztai FRSE in 1998, and when his peer-reviewed work produced the wrong results (from the Government's point of view), a telephone call from No.10 to the Rowett Institute where Dr. Pusztai led to his being immediately sacked, his reputation personally vilified in the media, and his research work closed down and disbanded.

Since the issue is the launching of GM products into the nation's food supply that have never been independently tested, this is a public scandal of huge proportions. A determined attempt will therefore be made at today's FSA meeting to secure freedom of access to the data on which the Government purports to rely in its approval of GM foods.

I attach a press release that sets out the background.

Michael Meacher
Former Minister of the Environment 1997-2003

Michael Meacher demands sound science and freedom of information on GM food and animal feed
Monday 15th August 2005 - For Immediate Release

On the seventh anniversary of the first disclosure of scientific concern about GM food safety I am supporting calls for freedom of access to the data used by the Government to approve GM foods.

Questions will be raised at the Food Standards Agency Open Board Meeting being held today. [1]

On the 10th August 1998, Dr Arpad Pusztai, FRSE, whose research team had been selected by the Scottish Office from 28 candidates to carry out its GM safety research, appeared on Granada TV's 'World in Action' programme to express his alarm about the effects of GM potatoes on rats. His research was peer-reviewed by six independent scientists and published in the Lancet. Seven years on, this feeding study still seems to be the only one to have been published in an academic journal. [2]

Since then there appear to have been no genuinely independent and long-term feeding studies that have been published in respectable scientific journals. The data available to the Government is produced by biotech companies and remains commercially confidential. The Government has recently said that it was unnecessary for studies relating to the approval of GM animal feed to be peer reviewed and published [3].

Does the Government honestly believe that it is ever going to persuade the people of Britain to eat GM foods or the produce of GM-fed animals when the public has had virtually no access to data from any long-term feeding trials?

Seven years ago the Government felt it necessary to carry out feeding trials of GM foods but, when its own research led to alarming conclusions, they decided that such research was unnecessary and should not be repeated.

We need both sound science and freedom of information on GM food and animal feed safety - the Government and the Food Standards Agency is giving us neither. Farmers and food retailers need to know that their produce is safe and that their animals are not at risk. Until they and their insurers have access to sound scientific research, I think they should exercise due diligence and avoid using GM animal feed.

If farmers and food manufacturers wanted to retain access to supplies of non-GM feed they needed to put in orders to Brazil before the next soya crop is planted in mid-September, otherwise next year's entire harvest could be GM and choice would be eliminated. More GM feed varieties are being approved despite the wish of many retailers to phase out its use. We may only have a month to save our non-GM supplies.

In 1998 a GM maize, called T25, was approved in the EU as a cattle feed. Only one feeding study looked at the effects of eating the whole maize; a short 10 week trial - on chickens - even though the active life of a dairy cow is over six years. 50% more chickens eating GM maize died than in the control group fed non-GM maize, but the Government felt this was not significant. The research was not peer-reviewed and was not of a quality suitable for academic publication, but the crop was approved.

The latest GM feed crop to be approved was MON 863 maize in July. This was despite the eventual disclosure of a secret Monsanto feeding study on rats that suggested harmful effects on kidneys and levels of white blood cells. Now, despite these concerns, it is about to be approved for human consumption.

Notes to editors:

[1] 11am-1pm at the Congress Centre, 28 Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS. For further information about the FSA meeting please contact Hector Christie on 07967 566 286 or Gerald Miles on 07879 664 703

[2] Dr Arpad Pusztai's latest evaluation of GM food safety research will form a chapter of a forthcoming academic publication.

[3] Answer to a Parliamentary Question from Mr Meacher, July 2005 [PQ02083].