GMO COMPASS - Information on genetically modified organisms
  Nov 27, 2014 | 11:53 pm
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Freedom of Choice

Selecting The Deliberately Applied System


Consumers are ensured the right to choose between products with or without genetic engineering. Freedom of choice is the widely accepted cornerstone of the EU’s policies on genetic engineering.

Even in Europe, genetically modified plants are becoming more and more widespread. The problem with this lies in the fact that these plants are grown out in the open, not in closed rooms. Wind and insects can allow GM plants in one field to pollinate conventional crops growing somewhere nearby. Under natural conditions, these kinds of pollination events are virtually inevitable.

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Freedom of choice. Consumers have the choice: Foods from GMOs... or not?

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From seed to snack: Coexistence regulations prevent uncontrolled mixing

 

If two maize fields are planted side by side, the probability of cross pollination between the fields is very high; it goes down with increasing separation. But even during harvest, transport, storage, and processing, the mixing of products due to traces left in containers and machines is practically inevitable.

Consequently, as long as genetically engineered plants are being grown in the vicinity, it will be impossible to get 100% GM-free products. There is no way that two different worlds – one with and one without GMOs – could exist in parallel yet maintain isolation. Already today, many foods containing soy and maize have detectable traces of GM material – even in organic products.

Europe cannot be isolated from the rest of the world

The politically mandated right to have the freedom of choice was set in place knowing that GM crops are grown around the world. The production of these crops is widespread, and their products reach our domestic markets. These facts must be in sync with our approach to politics and economy. The thought of returning to a pre-GMO world is a prospect that lacks perspective.

Around the world, GM crops are produced on more than 90 million hectares in over twenty different countries. Their products are then introduced to the worldwide market. The EU imports 37 million tons of soy each year – a significant amount of which is genetically modified.

Cultivating GM crops is also possible within the European Union. We will most likely see an expansion of GM crops from their currently limited presence in Spain, Germany, France, Portugal, and the Czech Republic.

International trade contracts require the free trade of GM plants and their products. In order for an individual country or the EU to refuse a particular product, there must be some kind of reasonable doubt as to the safety of that product. With currently approved GMOs, this is simply not the case. The EU cannot cut itself off from the rest of the world when it comes to agricultural genetic engineering. GM food and feed are already on the market.

Separated as well as possible

Practising different production methods in parallel (conventional, organic, and with GM crops) challenges producers to come up with ways of minimising their influences on one another. If intermixing can be kept at a minimum, the integrity of labelling and choice will remain intact. Maintaining this is the explicit goal of the European Commission. Also demanded by the European Commission is that none of these agricultural methods be hindered or forbidden. In order to realise these demands, the European Commission published guidelines in 2003 for implementing coexistence – in other words, the equal opportunity to produce organic, conventional, or genetically modified crops anywhere in the EU. These guidelines include measures such as minimum spacing requirements between fields that will keep mixing low enough to respect the 0.9 percent labelling threshold.

Thresholds: The difference between accidental mixing and deliberate use

Freedom of choice means being able to decide between products from different agricultural systems, in this case, those that employ, and those that choose not to employ genetic engineering. Where the line between accidental mixing and deliberate use is drawn is in the hands of political bodies.

In the EU, this distinction is made by the 0.9 percent threshold. Foods and ingredients containing less than 0.9 percent GMO content do not require labelling when the GMO portion was unintentionally and unavoidably introduced. This figure was collaboratively accepted by the EU Member States.

Labelling informs consumers whether or not genetic engineering was used to produce a food product. Consumers are free to let this information be a part of their decision making process.

 


An EU Research Project

What are the risks of growing GM crops?

What are the benefits?

Numerous studies have addressed the potential impacts of genetically modified (GM) plants. Yet the existing evidence on the effects of GM plants is often contradictory and the quality of scientific research varies widely.

Therefore, the GRACE project will establish new tools for assessing the quality of existing studies and will conduct comprehensive reviews to identify health, environmental and socio-economic impacts of GM plants.

More information

Environmental Safety: Crop Specific Information
Maize
Potato
Sugar beet
Rapeseed/Canola
Cotton
Soybean
Wheat
Rice
December 21, 2006 [nach oben springen]

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