Ahh transparency

November 2016

Photo Creative Commons
'Transparency' - transmitting rays of light without diffusion ...(Oxford English Dictionary)

'Transparency', Monsanto-style, is interesting.

Because glyphosate herbicide (used on and accumulated by most GM crops) is being linked to cancer, and because the safety of the  co-formulants used in glyphosate sprays is being questioned, Monsanto made 82 unpublished studies on these topics available for scrutiny.

By 'made available' is meant put in a reading room on industry property to which those wishing to view them are accompanied by a guard, and in which photography, internet access and memory sticks are banned.

This 'availability' was provided only after several months of pressure from MEPs who believed that there was an overriding public interest in disclosing the data used in the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) re-authorisation of the herbicide.

On 28th September - International Right to Know Day - four environmentalists MEPs staged a protest outside the reading room to demand transparent transparency, and threatening to sue the EFSA in the EU Court of Justice if unrestricted public access to the data is not given.

A day later the EFSA discovered that it had a 'commitment to open risk assessment' and that:
"Transparency and openness are essential values for EFSA because they strengthen confidence in science.  Sharing the data that underpin our work is a key ingredient in making science reproducible and therefore trusted."

EFSA commitment to 'open risk assessment' seems, however, to be hampered by its obligations under European Law to protect commercially sensitive information and the interests of the data owners. 

The Authority went on to announce that the glyphosate data will be released to MEPs ... with the description and details of studies conducted under Good Laboratory Practice and the conclusions of the study authors blacked out.  Only 14 (18%) of the experts who prepared the EFSA evaluation of glyphosate would agree to their identity being released.

 'Transparency' EFSA-style seems to be a blacked-out report written by secret authors with unidentified conflict-of-interests who reached a conclusion on glyphosate safety contrary to that reached by the totally independent and transparent International Assessment of Research on Cancer (IARC) just the year before.

Monsanto complained about the cost of transparency, a breath-taking 15 million Euros (75 Euros per page of the 82 studies).  This doesn't attach to making the papers available, but to the cost in damages to 24 companies seeking re-authorisation of glyphosate.  


The EFSA got one thing right: without transparency, no one's going to trust the science.

If you're wondering how much information is so embarrassing it's being concealed, 55% of the
studies requested at the outset were already published.  If the EFSA claims are to believed, the number of pages in the unpublished studies amount to some five times the overage page number in studies peer-reviewed and in the public domain.

On a weight-of-evidence basis, the information neither the biotech industry nor regulators want us to know overwhelms the data it's happy to parade.

Perhaps if you keep drawing the attention of the public, your MP and your MEP to the lack of transparency in all matters connected to GMOs, they'll eventually notice what transparency means.


  • MEPs protest industry "reading room" for secret glyphosate studies, GM Watch 28.09.16
  • Glyphosate: EFSA to share industry's raw data, GM Watch 29.09.16 (main source

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