Why the precautionary principle matters
24 November 2014
A UK government select committee is leading an onslaught against Europe's GMO regulations, warns Claire Robinson
As part of the UK government's unrelenting push to dismantle Europe's GM food regulations, the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee is conducting an inquiry into GM foods and the way they are regulated in Europe under the precautionary principle.
The intended outcome is almost certainly to replace the precautionary principle, which is currently built into European law, with something along the lines of the 'innovation principle', a concept pushed by corporate interests.
This initiative comes conveniently in the midst of the TTIP free trade negotiations, which aim to do away with Europe's process-based GMO regulations – that means regulation based on the method of producing the GM plant, which demands that all GMOs are labelled because they are GMOs.
The objectivity of this inquiry is seriously in doubt. The Terms of Reference on the Committee's website state that "European Commission reports" have found "no scientific evidence associating GM organisms with higher risks for the environment or food and feed safety".
The "reports" referred to almost certainly include a report by two divisions of the Commission, "A Decade of EU-Funded GMO Research". Some of the report's editors claim in the introduction that the research projects under this EU initiative found no evidence that GM was any more risky than non-GM breeding. What they do not say is that the project didn't even look at the safety of any GMO that's actually in the food and feed supply!
None of the studies tested a commercialized GM food; none tested the GM food for long-term effects beyond the medium-term period of 90 days; all found differences in the GM-fed animals, which in some cases were statistically significant; and none were able to conclude on the safety of the GM food tested, let alone on the safety of GM foods in general. Therefore the EU research project provides no evidence that could support claims of safety for any single GM food or of GM crops in general.