Science in GMO safety assessment: eliminating unnecessary animal testing

Science in GMO safety assessment: eliminating unnecessary animal testing
The EU needs to reduce the use of animal testing for scientific purposes

Reacting to the outcomes of the EU research projects GRACE, G-TwYST and GMO90+ presented this week, Beat Späth, Director of Agricultural Biotechnology at EuropaBio, calls for an end to unneeded animal testing.

The EU needs to reduce the use of animal testing for scientific purposes. The director of EuropaBio said: “In light of the clear scientific evidence, political interference with GMO risk assessment has to stop,” adding: “If the EU is genuinely serious about being consistent with its own legislation aiming to replace, reduce and refine the use of animals used for scientific purposes and its policy to follow the science, wasteful and unnecessary animal tests should no longer be required.”

The results of the research projects, which were funded with more than €11m of European taxpayers’ money, show that the mandatory requirement to conduct rodent tests for safety assessment lacks any scientific basis.

A science-based risk assessment

In 2013, the EU imposed mandatory 90-day animal feeding trials for GM food and feed risk assessment, despite the clear scientific advice of the EU’s risk assessment body – the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) – which repeatedly dismissed the mandatory requirement as unnecessary.

The requirement remains in clear contradiction with the globally maintained principle of science-based risk assessment.

The commission was also instructed to review the requirement for mandatory 90-day feeding studies by 30 June 2016, based on the outcome of the EU research project GRACE. An independent academic consortium of the GRACE project concluded in November 2015 that there is no scientific justification for a mandatory 90-day study.

Mandatory feeding studies do not add to product safety nor build trust in the EU’s authorisation system for GMO imports. They only add to the well-documented unnecessary delays in the process at the needless expense of animals.

Späth said: “We support the objective of increasing trust in science and in the EU’s safety assessment procedure. One of the lowest hanging fruits is to make sure that the safety assessment requirements are, at the very least, science-based,”

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