European environmental groups today (18 April) called for the sale and cultivation of genetically modified foods and crops to be halted, accusing the European Commission of approving GM foods despite th EC’s own serious reservations about their safety.

Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace claim to have obtained a report submitted by the EC to the World Trade Organisation which reveals the scientific arguments put forward by the Commission during the recent GM trade dispute.

The report, conducted by independent scientists, warns that there is still uncertainty and disagreement on the long-term consequences of GMOs.

In the report, the EC said: “There simply is no way of ascertaining whether the introduction of GM products has had any other effect on human health…there is no unique, absolute, scientific cut off threshold available to decide whether a GM product is safe or not.”

On the cultivation of GM crops and possible consequences for the environment, the report also argued that “it is a reasonable and lawful position” to prevent planting until the effects on the soil are known.

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Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth were particularly critical of the fact that, even while it was presenting these arguments to the WTO, the EC pushed through the approval of seven GM foods over the past two years; required member states to vote twice on proposals to lift national bans on GM products in five countries; and commercialised 31 varieties of Monsanto’s GM maize for cultivation in the EU.

“The sale and growing of all genetically modified food and crops in the European Union must be halted immediately, given the serious concerns over their safety that have now come to light,” Adrian Bebb, GM campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe, said.

The report, Bebb told just-food, highlights the division between the EC, the European Union’s executive body, and the European Food and Safety Authority.

“It is interesting that the Commission did not employ the EFSA, their own scientific advisors, to write the report but apparently independent scientists. This is a big vote of no confidence in the EFSA,” he said.

“When the EU Commission broke the moratorium and forced new genetically modified foods into Europe, it told the public they were safe. Now we know that behind closed doors the Commission was arguing the complete opposite,” Bebb added.

Christoph Then, genetic engineering campaigner for Greenpeace, said: “The released EU papers outline detailed scientific concerns about the safety of genetically modified food and crops.”