New Report: For-Profit Animal Science Undermines Safe Food, Trade

Brussels and Washington, D.C.— A new report (.pdf) published today by Food & Water Europe exposes the enormous influence that corporate drug companies play in the peer-reviewed science surrounding risky veterinary drugs widely used in the United States but forbidden in the EU. The U.S. approach of allowing the marketplace to determine the safety of risky veterinary drugs rather than independent science—as was the case with the beef cattle growth-promoter Zilmax, which was removed from the U.S. market in 2013—makes any move toward regulatory “harmony” via an EU-U.S. trade agreement a serious threat to safety of the EU food system.

Food & Water Europe EU Food Policy Analyst Eve Mitchell said, “It’s clear that some favourable safety findings on the drugs widely used to produce food are effectively bought and paid for by the companies that stand to profit. The cornerstones of the scientific method, like independent replication of findings, simply aren’t being honoured, and many U.S. farmers are giving their animals questionable drugs every day because of it. This is not the kind of food production we want or need, yet a trans-Atlantic trade deal will reinforce these safety problems for everyone.”

The Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a vast trade deal under negotiation between the U.S. and EU. Highly controversial topics like genetically modified (GM) food and hormone treatments in meat animals have all but stalled progress of TTIP, which was supposed to conclude negotiations later this year. “Governments on both sides insist neither regulatory system will be eroded by TTIP and that food safety will continue to be guaranteed, but today’s report shows safety isn’t even clear now,” says Mitchell.

A major problem is with the scientific journals that publish the studies. Industry groups play an enormous role in the production of scientific literature, authoring journal articles, funding academic research and also serving as editors, sponsors or directors of the same scientific journals where much of their research is published.

Mitchell said, “It’s not just a matter of EU and U.S. regulators agreeing that their counterparts consulted the science and concluded drugs are safe when that science is comprised. Now, consumers on both sides of the Atlantic are being asked to place our faith in “harmonised’ approval systems.”

“This report documents the problems in animal science research, but the same weak disclosure rules, industry influence and lack of independent research appears to pervade much of agricultural research, from GMOs to cloning to herbicides. It’s huge.”

Mitchell added, “There’s a lot of talk about ‘free trade” out there, especially when in comes to TTIP, but it’s full of holes. To function properly, genuinely free markets rely on complete information available to all, and this report shows how deep the disclosure problem goes. The EU is not immune to these problems.”

Food & Water Europe calls on scientific journals to disclose the funding sources for papers they publish and says the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) also needs to do more to ensure the research it uses to determine the safety of products in the food chain has been thoroughly and independently assessed.

Mitchell concluded, “The merits of EFSA’s ongoing project on openness and transparency will be called into question unless it does more to ensure it is not relying on for-profit science. EFSA should publish the authorship affiliations and funding sources of the science it consults. Some large portion of the science EFSA consults is likely to have been biased by industry authorship and funding, but the public can’t see where this happens. This has to change.”

Read For Profit Animal Science Undermines Safe Food Trade:

Contact: Eve Mitchell, Food & Water Europe (UK time), +44(0)1381 610 740, [email protected]

EU GM Crop Bans: Commission and Council Must Heed Parliament



Brussels — Food & Water Europe welcomed today’s vote strengthening proposed rules for national or regional bans on genetically modified (GM) crops and called on the EU Commission and Council to respect the views of the Parliament in the negotiations now triggered.

EU Food Policy Advisor Eve Mitchell said: “The Parliament has rightly rejected the totally unacceptable involvement of biotech companies in national GM policy development, and it has improved the Council’s proposal in a number of ways. The ball is now firmly in the Council and Commission courts — will they listen to the democratic representatives of EU citizens, or will they listen to biotech lobbyists?”

The discussion on so-called opt-outs, whereby an EU Member State or region can ban GM crops even if the crops are authorised by Europe as a whole, has been fraught since it began in 2009. Proposals from the Council, which have failed to gain Parliamentary approval, have been legally flawed and uncertain to give bans the sound footing needed to survive any challenge from the biotech industry or international trade partners.

The Council’s latest proposal, formally adopted by the Council in July, was seriously problematic. The Parliament’s Committee today passed a series of amendments that remove many of the most offensive issues, including the involvement of GM crop applicants in the decision to grant a ban. The Parliament also added mandatory measures to prevent GM contamination. However, complex EU operating procedures mean that these disagreements between the Council and the Parliament will now be taken up in informal talks to try to find a deal that everyone can accept. How the discrepancies will be closed is now the key issue.

Mitchell said: “There is still a long way to go, but the Parliament has once again clearly rejected the Council’s approach to this issue. We call on both the Council and the Commission to respect the Parliament’s position as a first step to securing the meaningful bans on GM crops which many citizens want urgently.

“Pro-GM governments like the UK must accept that trying to force GM crops onto an unwilling public has not worked and will not work. Citizens want protection from GM contamination, the right to make decisions without interference from vested interests and the simple right to decide what they will eat and what they reject. Talk about democracy is nice, but this is what it looks like on the ground. Unresponsive Ministers and unelected Commissioners can have a deal on GM crops if they want one, but the Parliament sets the rules.”

Contact: Eve Mitchell, EU Food Policy Advisor, Food & Water Europe, +44 (0)1381 610 740 or emitchell(at)fweurope(dot)org

UK GM Report: Vested Interests Miss the Point



Statement from Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter

Brussels—“Food & Water Europe dismissed today’s United Kingdom report calling for more GM trials in the UK as “a chronically flawed effort from blinkered vested interests. The UK’s pro-GM government asked a group of GM scientists and lobbyists what we should do about GM food and crops. Since many of the scientists involved make money from GM, it’s no surprise they want more of it. But this situation begs the question: shouldn’t those advising the Government on GM be a bit more independent, or at least a little more distant from the profits?

“The report  aims for a shift to U.S.-style regulation based on “substantial equivalence,” rather than the EU’s clear case-by-case precautionary evaluation of each GMO in turn. This attempt to portray GMOs as “just the same” also undermines the very labels that help EU consumers find, and roundly reject, GM products on supermarket shelves.

“The biggest problem with the report is that it misses the point—if industrial food production was going to end hunger, it would have done so by now. We need a much smarter approach to feeding ourselves, with more respect for what farmers do, a sentiment that was reflected in a report called Wake Up Before It’s Too Late, which the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development issued last year.

Missing Permits Raise Stakes for Escape of AquaBounty’s Genetically Engineered Salmon



International Groups call on Panamanian Government to Correct Flaws in Regulatory Oversight

Washington, D.C.—AquaBounty’s experimental production facility of genetically engineered (GE) salmon in Panama is missing multiple legally required permits and inspections, including a wastewater discharge permit, according to an administrative claim filed today in Panama by the environmental group Centro de Incidencia Ambiental de Panama (CIAM).

Food & Water Watch, Center for Food Safety and Friends of the Earth were part of an international coalition of groups who supported CIAM’s administrative claim by submitting a letter to Panamanian authorities today, which raises serious questions regarding AquaBounty’s ability to comply with basic environmental regulations. 

“These allegations suggest a dangerous pattern of non-compliance and mismanagement by AquaBounty, raising the likelihood of an environmentally damaging escape of these fish,” said George Kimbrell, senior attorney for Center for Food Safety. “This news further undermines the empty assurances that AquaBounty and the Food and Drug Administration have given the public and suggests that Panama’s environmental laws may have also been broken.”

EU Must Draw a Line Under GMOs as Superweeds, Herbicide Use Soar



Brussels — On the eve of a key meeting of EU Member State representatives, Food & Water Europe today called on EU Member States to reject the application to authorise imports of a new so-called “stacked” GM maize. Citing its new report, Superweeds: How Biotech Crops Bolster the Pesticide Industry, the organisation says it is time to admit that the GM technology cannot deliver on its promises and instead has caused escalating problems the EU can no longer ignore.

“For nearly 20 years, herbicide-tolerant GM crops have been marketed as a way to improve yields, lower costs for farmers and reduce agriculture’s environmental impact. Not only have these claims not held up, they’ve backfired,” said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Europe. “The chemical arms race that industrial agriculture is waging against weeds in the U.S. is not working and is doing incalculable harm to our environment and human health.”

SmartStax maize, a joint Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences product, is an attempt by industry to address the rapid spread of glyphosate-resistant superweeds and insects as a result of existing GM cultivation – genetically modified to produce six internal insecticides and tolerant to both glyphosate and glufosinate. By combining multiple resistance genes into the crop the companies behind it hope it will slow the spread of superweeds, but Food & Water Europe points out that it is precisely these combinations that are the problem. The safety of the GM genes has been assessed individually, but the effects on people, livestock and the environment are unknown. They are also likely to make on-farm problems worse, not better, including leading to the use of far more dangerous chemicals like 2-4,D when new resistance inevitably emerges.

Despite being genetically modified with the sole purpose of helping farmers fight weeds, glyphosate-tolerant GM crops, primarily Monsanto’s Roundup Ready maize, have spurred a crisis of weed management for farmers. The Food & Water Europe report released today analyses U.S. Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency data to show the connection between the rapid proliferation of GM crops and affiliated pesticides in the United States and the rise of herbicide-resistant “superweeds” that have led to the steadily increasing use of more dangerous herbicides. The widely-used glyphosate herbicides have become ineffective as the weeds develop stronger resistance due to continuous over-exposure to the chemical. As glyphosate proves to be increasingly ineffective, more farmers are turning to more dangerous herbicides, and the biotech industry is keen to provide new products it claims will help ease the crisis.

Food & Water Europe EU Food Policy Advisor Eve Mitchell said, “European politicians and regulators need to heed the warning that GM crops are an escalation of weed management problems, not a solution, and to reject all applications for Roundup Ready or other herbicide tolerant GM crops for import or cultivation, starting with SmartStax maize. We should not grow them in the EU because they cause harm and set back sustainable farming. We should not import them because these problems are now sufficiently serious that is it no longer acceptable to turn a blind eye by encouraging this GM production elsewhere. Europe cannot claim to foster sustainable farming or sustainable development if it is exporting the damage caused by its choices to other countries and expecting those communities to pay the price.

“Rather than extending GM use, which we know consumers reject, we want clear labels on food products showing where GM is and isn’t used as ingredients or feed. Continuing to sell meat and eggs using hidden GM feed while adding more dangerous, untested combinations to the chain is simply unacceptable. The market can’t function properly if shoppers don’t know what they are buying.”

The report also examines the costs associated with GM crops and herbicide-resistant weeds, including reduced yields, increased effort to combat weed infestations and resulting increase in pesticide exposure and chemical residues that harm public health, the environment, wildlife and water quality.

The “Superweeds” Report is available here:

And an accompanying video based on the report can be found here:

Contact: Eve Mitchell, +44 (0)1381 610 740 or [email protected]

EU Version – Superweeds: How Biotech Crops Bolster the Pesticide Industry



Genetically engineered (GE) crops — usually called “genetically modified” (GM) outside the U.S. — were first approved in the United States in the 1990s, and since then the United States has been the biggest global adopter of this technology. GE crops were supposed to improve yields, lower costs for farmers and reduce agriculture’s environmental impact. Yet nearly 20 years after their introduction, genetically engineered crops have not provided the benefits promised by the companies.



Food & Water Watch examined U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data to document the increased use of herbicides that has accompanied the adoption of herbicide-tolerant GE crops. Our analysis looks at the rapid proliferation of GE crops and affiliated pesticides in the United States and points out the interdependent relationship between these two industries that also fuels the crisis of weed resistance. Food & Water Watch evaluated data from the International Survey of Herbicide Resistant Weeds that reveal burgeoning herbicide- resistant weeds caused by the over-reliance on glyphosate for broad control of weeds. These data make it clear that the problem of herbicide-resistant weeds will not be solved with the intensified use of older, more toxic herbicides like 2,4-D and dicamba.

Learn more about superweeds in our new video:

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