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Monsanto threatens to sue EFSA over publication of maize GM data

By Shane Starling , 08-Mar-2013

Monsanto is threatening the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) with legal action after the European Union’s central science agency published data relating to a Monsanto genetically modified (GM) maize form.

Sources said Monsanto had, “threatened court action via a letter” over EFSA’s decision in January to publish data on its GM NK603 maize. NK603 was used in a much-debated study published in Food and Chemical Toxicology by Séralini et al. in September last year.

The Séralini study linked NK603 to increased cancer risk although EFSA concluded the findings did not stand up scientifically.

In a diplomatically worded statement issued Friday, the agency said, “EFSA launched a new initiative in January 2013 to enhance transparency in the risk assessment process and in the Authority’s scientific decision making processes.”

“An important part of this initiative is to work with stakeholders and partners to develop ways to facilitate access to data considered by risk assessors. We understand, however, there may be opposition to this initiative from Monsanto.”

At the time of the transparency initiative, EFSA executive director Catherine Geslain-Lanéelle said: “Risk assessment is an evolving science and EFSA is always willing to review its past work should new robust science bring a new perspective to any of the Authority’s previous findings.”

“With the launch of today’s initiative that aims to make data used in risk assessment publicly available, EFSA will help scientists from different areas of expertise develop research that can ultimately enrich academic literature and provide valuable new perspectives that can be included in risk assessments.”

“This will make the conclusions of risk assessments even stronger when ensuring public health protection and further build confidence in EFSA’s work.”

Monsanto response

After publication, Monsanto noted EFSA had found NK603 maize to be safe for human health and for the environment, adding that it, "firmly supports transparency in European regulatory decision-making, but strongly objects to EFSA’s unilateral publication of Monsanto’s data."

"For Europe to attract investment in agricultural biotechnology it needs a regulatory environment that follows legislation and is predictable and science-based rather than one determined by the demands of campaign groups." 

A spokesperson told us the company sought, "dialogue not legal action." 

The disputed NK603 data set published by EFSA is available here .

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