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6th European Conference of GMO-free Regions

John Dalli: A "technical solution" for traces of unapproved GMOs

(18 September 2010) John Dalli, EU Commissioner for Consumer Protection, intends to defuse the problem of traces of unapproved genetically modified organisms (GMOs) found in agricultural imports. At the 6th European Conference of GM free Regions, Commissioner Dalli announced the finding of a "technical solution" quite soon. The commissioner also referred to the new possibilities granted to EU Member States to regulate the cultivation of GM plants more closely.

In his speech at the sixth European Conference of GM free Regions in Brussels, the EU Commissioner for Consumer Protection explained current EU policy on genetic enginering. In order to have the freedom of choice for the European consumer while buying food products, a variety of agricultural systems with and without genetic engineering must exist.

In July, the EU Commission agreed upon new guidelines for coexistence. According to these, Member States now may decree significantly stricter measures towards avoiding GMO being found in conventional or organic products.

For the first time, Member States now have been granted the right to establish GM free zones. According to Commissioner Dalli, "From the experience gained in the last years, the Commission has observed that under certain economic and natural conditions, coexistence of GM, conventional [and] organic crops is not possible."The Commissioner stated conviction that the new coexistence guidelines would preserve the "right balance" between the requirements of GM free agriculture and the cultivation of genetically modified plants.

At the same time, Commissioner Dalli emphasised that EU-wide GMO approval procedures would "be preserved and even reinforced in the near future". These procedures are "the strictest the world" and are "based on science, safety and consumer choice.

Commissioner Dalli pointed out to conference participants that the use if GMO is an economic reality, primarily in the area of animal feed. Between 85 and 90 per cent of animal feed on the market in the EU is labelled as ‘genetically modified’, as is 95 per cent of imported soybeans. According to the commissioner, European meat production is dependant on feed imports from South and North America.

The Commission now intends to find a "technical solution" for the problem of traces of GM plants that are not yet approved in the EU. Since a variety of GM maize and soy plants cultivated in South and North America are not yet approved in the EU as food or feed, GMO traces are almost impossible to avoid. When such GMOs have been detected in feed imports to date, the shipments have been refused import entry the EU.

The Commission now intends to issue a technical guideline for sampling and analysis. The guideline should contain a definition of the lowest GMO content for which unequivocal measurement is possible. In the case of GMO content lower that 0.1 per cent, detection procedures often deliver results that are not very meaningful and that often differ greatly to each other.

According to Dalli, "This ‘technical solution’ would not change the zero tolerance approach to unauthorised GMOs [that has been valid until now], but make it more operational." Furthermore, the threat would be reduced of a scarcity of animal food and the competitive disadvantage that this implies for European food production.


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