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Assessment & Impacts » Risk assessment

Title: Combinatorial Effects of Stacked GM Plants Deserve Proper Assessment
Publication date: December 28, 2017
Posting date: December 28, 2017

THIRD WORLD NETWORK BIOSAFETY INFORMATION SERVICE

Dear Friends and Colleagues

Combinatorial Effects of Stacked GM Plants Deserve Proper Assessment

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has a leading role to give scientific advice to the EU Commission, the European Parliament and to the EU member-states. EFSA advice is aimed at protecting consumers and the food chain.

Recent GM plants tend to include both insect resistance and herbicide tolerance traits. Some of these ’stacked’ GM plants have multiple Cry-toxinsexpressed as well as tolerance to several herbicides. This means that non-target organisms in the environment (biodiversity) will be co-exposed to multiple stressors simultaneously, raising concerns over combinatorial or interactive effects. Industry data has showed that stacked Bt expressing plants may express higher levels of distinct Cry-toxins compared with the mother lines. A similar co-exposure may happen to consumers through chemical residues in the food chain.

EFSAhas expressed scientific interest in and requested for research on such combinatorial effects. A recent journal article discusses EFSA's response to one such study submitted by Bohn et al. in 2016. The articles highlights the following:

·         When a new study (Bohn et al. 2016) showed how two Cry-toxins acted in combination (added toxicity), and that the same Cry-toxins showed combinatorial effects when co-exposed with Roundup, EFSA dismissed these new peer-reviewed results.

·         EFSA rejected the hypothesis of potential harm to non-target organisms using their own a priori expectation. This expectation was not evidence-based but assumption-based. Relevant scientific literature shows that Cry-toxins have been documented to cause various effects (mostly negative) on non-target organisms.

·         In its response to the published Bøhn et al. (2016) paper, EFSA restricted its consideration to only a small part of the data published.

·         EFSA does separate risk assessments of the chemical herbicide (typically glyphosate/ Roundup for single GM events) and the herbicide-tolerant GM plant of which this herbicide is an essential component. Thus, it deliberately excludes the combinatorial effects of several Cry-toxins or the combined effects of Cry-toxins together with one or more herbicides.

The author calls for EFSA to recognize new scientific evidence, communicate in an impartial and open manner with researchers, and in doing so, gain public trust. Without such an approach, EFSA may miss the opportunity to improve its environmental and health risk assessment of toxins and pesticides in the food chain, including combinatorial effects.

With best wishes,

Third World Network
131 Jalan Macalister
10400 Penang
Malaysia
Email: twn@twnetwork.org
Websites: http://www.twn.my/and http://www.biosafety-info.net/
To subscribe to other TWN information services: www.twnnews.net

____________________________________________________________________________

CRITICISM OF EFSA'S SCIENTIFIC OPINION ON COMBINATORIAL EFFECTS OF ‘STACKED’ GM PLANTS

ThomasBøhn
Food and Chemical Toxicology
Volume 111
, January 2018, Pages 268-274
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fct.2017.11.023
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278691517306907

Abstract

Recent genetically modified plants tend to include both insect resistance and herbicide tolerance traits. Some of these ’stacked’ GM plants have multiple Cry-toxinsexpressed as well as tolerance to several herbicides. This means that non-target organisms in the environment (biodiversity) will be co-exposed to multiple stressors simultaneously. A similar co-exposure may happen to consumers through chemical residues in the food chain. EFSA, the responsible unit for minimizing risk of harm in European food chains, has expressed its scientific interest in combinatorial effects. However, when new data showed how two Cry-toxins acted in combination (added toxicity), and that the same Cry-toxins showed combinatorial effects when co-exposed with Roundup (Bøhn et al., 2016), EFSA dismissed these new peer-reviewed results. In effect, EFSA claimed that combinatorial effects are not relevant for itself. EFSA was justifying this by referring to a policy question, and by making invalid assumptions, which could have been checked directly with the lead-author. With such approach, EFSA may miss the opportunity to improve its environmental and health risk assessment of toxins and pesticides in the food chain. Failure to follow its own published requests for combinatorial effects research, may also risk jeopardizing EFSA's scientific and public reputation.


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