Open Access Discussion

The German ban on GM maize MON810: scientifically justified or unjustified?

Thomas Bøhn12*, Raul Primicerio2 and Terje Traavik12

Author Affiliations

1 GenØk – Centre for Biosafety, The Science Park, Postbox 6418, 9294, Tromsø, Norway

2 Institute of Pharmacy, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Tromsø, Tromsø, Norway

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Environmental Sciences Europe 2012, 24:22  doi:10.1186/2190-4715-24-22

Published: 16 July 2012

Abstract

The ongoing controversies over genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Europe remain intense. Assessing the risks associated with new technologies is crucial, and becomes particularly important for self-replicating GMOs used in open ecosystems. In general, scientific disagreement and debate is at the core of knowledge generation. However, in the GMO debate, it seems that pre-conceived conclusions can in some cases overshadow real data and factual results of investigations. In this article, we describe how the German ban on the cultivation of MON810 Bt-transgenic maize plant has been criticized for not having a sound scientific justification and provide arguments for why we disagree with this perspective. We do this by demonstrating in detail how arguments put forward by Agnes Ricroch and colleagues in an article from Transgenic Research are based on i) serious scientific flaws, such as omitting core results and misrepresenting others; ii) inconsistency in how laboratory studies that show negative effects of GM plant exposure should be followed up; and iii) a systematic selection of particular results and/or studies that match their own arguments. We conclude that Ricroch et al. misrepresent and selectively scrutinize certain data only. The effect of this double standard is that those only reading or referring to Ricroch et al. will be seriously misinformed about our study as well as in the discussion on the 2009 German ban of the MON810 GM maize. However, we do not claim that the ban was finally and irreversibly justified by the science referred to, including our own studies within the field. The German ban on MON810 was, and must be, a political decision, guided by valid scientific evidence.

Keywords:
Transgenic crops; Bt/cry toxins; Environmental risk assessment; Non-target effects; German ban on MON810; European GMO controversy; Daphnia magna