Members in the European Parliament (MEPs) announced that Monsanto officials would no longer be able to meet MEPs, attend committee meetings or even use “digital resources” in Brussels or Strasbourg parliament premises, essentially banning them from parliament.1
The blow came after the biotech giant refused to attend a hearing organized by environment and agriculture committees over allegations that Monsanto engaged in regulatory interference, by influencing studies into the safety of glyphosate, the active ingredient in their Roundup herbicide.
The Guardian quoted Green party president Philippe Lamberts, who stated, “Those who ignore the rules of democracy also lose their rights as a lobbyist in the European parliament … U.S. corporations must also accept the democratic control function of the parliament. Monsanto cannot escape this.”2 This is one of the harshest examples yet in terms of a large government body not allowing Monsanto lobbyists to talk to its members going forward.
In the U.S., Monsanto has significant influence on government agencies, but even in the U.K., which was originally more resistant to Monsanto’s genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the company has made a lot of headway in changing their image. That being said, European Commission leaders met in March 2016 to vote on whether to renew a 15-year license for glyphosate, which was set to expire in June that year.
The decision was tabled amid mounting opposition, as more than 180,000 Europeans signed a petition calling for glyphosate to be banned outright. Ultimately, more than 2 million signatures were collected against relicensing the chemical. In June 2016, however, the European Commission granted an 18-month extension to glyphosate while they continued the review. A ruling is expected by the end of 2017, which means the lobby ban could not have come at a more inopportune time for Monsanto.
Monsanto Refuses to Attend EU Hearing, MEPs Withdraw Parliamentary Access
NGO Corporate Europe Observatory spokesman Martin Pigeon told The Guardian it was “extremely important that parliament has been prepared to meet Monsanto’s unbelievable arrogance with real retaliation and consequences.”3 Indeed, in a stark departure from the U.S. government’s cozy ties with Monsanto, the European Parliament has taken a much-needed stand. As for why Monsanto refused to attend the hearing, they said in a letter to MEPs, seen by The Guardian:4
“The joint hearing could be viewed as the latest attempt by those opposed to modern agricultural practices to influence and frustrate the EU scientific and regulatory process to suit their own agenda … We have observed with increasing alarm the politicization of the EU procedure on the renewal of glyphosate, a procedure which should be scientific but which in many respects has been hijacked by populism.”
The European Parliament, however, wanted to get answers regarding reports that they were misled regarding studies on Roundup’s toxicity. One study in question was conducted by Gilles-Eric Séralini. The lifetime feeding study, published in 2012, revealed numerous shocking problems in rats fed GMO corn, including massive tumors and early death. Rats given glyphosate in their drinking water also developed tumors.
The following year, the publisher retracted the study saying it “did not meet scientific standards,” even though a long and careful investigation found no errors or misrepresentation of data.
Interestingly enough, in the time between the publication of the study and its retraction, the journal had created a new position — associate editor for biotechnology, a position that was filled by a former Monsanto employee. The editor of the journal that retracted the study was also reportedly paid by Monsanto.
As GM Watch reported, “ … [E]mails released show that Monsanto was active in the retraction process, though it tried to hide its involvement.”5 Séralini not only republished the study in another journal, he also took legal action, and at the end of 2015, he won two court cases against some of those who tried to destroy his career and reputation.
In the first case, Marianne magazine and a journalist by the name of Jean-Claude Jaillette — who accused Séralini of “scientific fraud in which the methodology served to reinforce pre-determined results” — were found guilty of public defamation. In a second case, Marc Fellous, former chairman of the Biomolecular Engineering Commission of France, was indicted for forgery and the use of forgery in a libel trial.
Glyphosate Front Group Tells EU Not to Consider Critical Roundup Study
Follow-up research by Séralini showed that long-term exposure to even ultra-low amounts of Roundup may cause tumors, along with liver and kidney damage in rats. In this study, the dose used was "environmentally relevant in terms of human, domesticated animals and wildlife levels of exposure," prompting the authors to suggest Roundup may have significant health implications.6,7
However, because the original study was “retracted,” it was excluded from the EU glyphosate assessment. The Glyphosate Task Force, an industry front group, even said it was “not considered reliable anymore.”
Hans Muilerman of consumer group Pesticide Action Network (PAN) recently sent letters to EU Health and Food Safety Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), stating that the study’s exclusion amounts to “a very serious case of manipulation” of science.8 GM Watch further reported:
“Muilerman writes in his letters, ‘We conclude from these facts that the Glyphosate Task Force’s characterization of the Séralini study as ‘not reliable’ is itself not reliable, originating, as it does, from a campaign orchestrated by Monsanto” … He explains: ‘The Séralini study is the longest chronic experiment with the full formulation of glyphosate — and we know that the co-formulants change its toxicity.
Since data requirements for chronic toxicity of formulations are missing in the Regulation, the Séralini study fills an important knowledge gap as well as serving the obligation in the Regulation … to take into account cumulative and synergistic effects.
It is a bitter shame that the Rapporteur Germany accepted this manipulation by the Glyphosate Task Force.’ Muilerman calls on Andriukaitis to ‘commission a fully independent panel of top level scientists that have no link whatever to industry to redo the review.’”