Publishing information on GM Crops is not dangerous but responsible
Madrid, 19 May 2010: Access Info today rejected accusations by the agricultural association Anove that the publication by Friends of the Earth (Spain) of the location of research fields for genetically modified (GM) crops was “irresponsible”, “dangerous” and could “incite violence”.1 The members of Anove include Monsanto, Pioneer and Syngenta.2
Access Info Europe declared its support for the right of Friends of the Earth to use and disseminate information received legally from the government following an information request presented using Spain’s law on access to environmental information.3 This right is protected by the European Convention on Human Rights in its Article 10 guarantee of freedom of expression.
The European Court of Human Rights has underlined that this right should be especially respected where civil society groups are using information obtained from government to participate in public debate.4
According to Access Info’s analysis, it is the role of the government and not private interest groups to determine the correct balance between any potential security concerns and the overriding public value of this information for ensuring an open public debate. The Spanish government has already taken a decision to release this information in line with the jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice which has ruled that “governments cannot invoke the public order exception to oppose disclosing the location of release of genetically modified organisms.¨5
“Given the huge controversy surrounding genetically modified crops, it is essential to have a well-informed public debate, including with information about the location of the research fields,” said Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info Europe.
In countries such as the UK, Portugal and Germany, this same Information has been published on government websites, which are an important sources of information for farmers and private persons who don’t want to live near GM crop fields, as well as for the public debate in general.6
Access Info Europe notes that in Spain there is a climate of secrecy which is unique in Europe. In spite of having a law on access to environmental information, it is the largest country in Europe without a general law that guarantees the right of the public to ask for and receive information from the government in a simple, speedy and free way.7
Information request sent by Friends of the Earth Spain
Response from Spanish government to Friends of the Earth Spain
Map of the GM experimental sites in Spain:
Ver Mapa de los ensayos experimentales con transgénicos al aire libre en España 2010 en un mapa más grande
1. See Anove press release, 12/05/2010, http://fundacion-antama.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/20100512-NP-ANOVE-amigos-de-la-tierra-Def.pdf
2. The memebrs of Anove include: Monsanto Agricultura Española, Pioneer Hi-Bred Spain y Syngenta Seeds, see http://www.anove.es/socios.html
3. Ley 27/2006, de 18 de julio, por la que se regulan los derechos de acceso a la información, de participación pública y de acceso a la justicia en materia de medio ambiente (incorpora las Directivas 2003/4/CE y 2003/35/CE).
4. European Court of Human Rights: Társaság a Szabadságjogokért v. Hungary (App no 37374/05), ECHR, 14 April 2009, paragraph 36, http://cmiskp.echr.coe.int/tkp197/view.asp?action=html&documentId=849278&portal=hbkm&source=externalbydocnumber&table=F69A27FD8FB86142BF01C1166DEA398649. The Interamerican Court of Human Rights has confirmed, in the case of Claude Reyes and others vs. Chile that the right of access to information is directly linked to freedom of expression, see: http://www.corteidh.or.cr/casos.cfm?idCaso=245
5. Sentence of Court of Justice in case C-552/07, http://curia.europa.eu/es/actu/communiques/cp09/aff/cp090016es.pdf
6. See website of the Department for Environmental Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) of the UK: http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/quality/gm/regulation/registers/index.htm
See Portuguese Environmental Agency website:
And the German government website: http://apps2.bvl.bund.de/stareg_web/localeSwitch.do?language=en&page=/showflaechen.do
7. See Access Info Europe website, http://www.access-info.org/es/coalicion-pro-acceso.