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Monsanto lobbyists banned from entering European Parliament

  • Published at 02:37 pm September 29th, 2017
Monsanto lobbyists banned from entering European Parliament
The European Parliament has decided to bar the lobbyists for multinational agrochemical giant Monsanto after the company evaded a hearing into allegations of regulatory interference. This is the first time the MEPs have used the new rules to withdraw parliamentary access for firms that ignore a summons to attend parliamentary inquiries or hearings. All major parliamentary blocks had backed the ban in a vote Thursday morning, reports The Guardin, quoting Antonion Tajani, a spokesperson of the European Parliament. The formal process still needs to be worked out. But from now on, Monsanto officials will be unable to meet MEPs, attend committee meetings or use digital resources on parliament premises in Brussels or Strasbourg, added Tajani. "One has to assume it is effective immediately," he said. Earlier on October 10, Monsanto evaded a hearing organised by the environment and agriculture committees of the European Parliament. The meeting was expected to hear allegations that Monsanto unduly influenced regulatory studies into the safety of glyphosate, a key ingredient in its best-selling RoundUp weedkiller. "Those who ignore the rules of democracy also lose their rights as a lobbyist in the European parliament," said the Green party President Philippe Lamberts. The lobby ban will be a bitter blow to Monsanto's advocacy campaign related to the relicensing of glyphosate, which has been linked to cancer by one expert WHO panel. Another deemed it safe for public use, but Monsanto's outreach to regulatory agencies in the US and Europe sparked controversy and prompted the parliamentary hearing. However, Monsanto defended its decision to evade the parliamentary hearing in a letter to the MEPs, saying: "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 politicisation of the EU procedure on the renewal of glyphosate," wrote Monsanto's Vice President Philip Miller, "a procedure which should be scientific but which in many respects has been hijacked by populism." The Guardian has a copy of the letter. Welcoming the Monsanto lobby ban, Martin Pigeon, a spokesman for the NGO Corporate Europe Observatory, said it was "extremely important that parliament has been prepared to meet Monsanto's unbelievable arrogance with real retaliation and consequences." Monsanto spends between €300,000-€400,000 (£260,000 - £350,000) annually on lobbying in Brussels, according to its self-declaration form in the EU transparency register. Activists in Bangladesh have long been alleging that some Bt brinjal varieties, genetically modified aubergine varieties developed using Monsanto's "cry1Ac" gene construct, were approved for commercial cultivation by Bangladesh's National Committee on Biosafety (NCB) in 2013 without adequate toxicity tests. Bt brinjal was developed by the government-operated Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute with technical assistance from Cornell University in the US and funding from Usaid. Monsanto still owns the technology but has granted a royalty-free, not-for-profit license to BARI to test, produce and distribute the plants other than by sale. Only a three-month "sub-acute toxicity test" on the released Bt Brinjal varieties developed by the Indian sub-licensee of the technology, Maharashtrya Hybrid Seed Company Ltd (Mahyco). Experts hold that a three-month "sub-acute toxicity test" cannot provide the parameter to judge the longer term toxicity impact on human health. It is mentionable here that Monsanto has a 26% stake in Mahyco.