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for a responsible, fair & sustainable food system

EU Zero Tolerance Proposals “Completely Unacceptable”

Immediate release (28 Oct 2010)

Calls to Pete Riley 07903 341065

This week’s announcement that the European Commission is proposing to allow up to 0.1% GM content in animal feed from unapproved traits [1] has been described by GM Freeze as “completely unacceptable” and not based on evidence.

Very few animal feed imports have been rejected because of contamination with unapproved GM traits since 2009. [2] Soya imports from Argentina and Brazil, the EU’s main suppliers of soya meal for animal feed, have not had any contamination incidents with unauthorised GM traits because they have systems in place to maintain quality. Contamination problems come mainly in US imports because systems for segregation there are not as reliable so have been responsible for 90% of the problem.

GM Freeze says the solution to this small contamination problem is to maintain the zero tolerance approach to unapproved traits in animal feed and to insist on better segregation of crops in the US, backed by rigorous testing at ports of entry to the EU to prevent contaminated cargoes entering the food and feed chains.

Contamination by unauthorised GM is also of concern to the US, which does not allow entry for any imports containing GM traits it has not approved.

GM Freeze points out that allowing “unapproved” genes would open up the possibility that all experimental GM traits currently being developed around the world including, for instance, genes to produce pharmaceuticals in food crop plants, would be permitted. None of these would have approval in their country of origin or any other country. It would also allow in GM traits into the food chain that have not been through a full safety risk assessment required under EU GMO legislation.

In 2007 GM Freeze conducted an analysis of the risks of UK food and feed imports being contaminated by GM. [3] The briefing highlighted the risks of contamination from the practice of using food crops to manufacture GM pharmaceuticals and pointed to the US case of a GM pig vaccine gene contaminating a soya crop. The costs of any repeat of such an incident could be considerable, hence the need for prevention. [4]

Liability for problems arising if unapproved traits cause health, environment or market problems also need to be addressed.

Commenting Pete Riley of GM Freeze said:

The EC proposals are completely unacceptable. They are not needed, as only 0.2% of animal feed imports were rejected.

Dropping the zero tolerance policy would open up Europe to a whole range of GM contamination with traits that may not have been tested for safety. Low-level contamination of animal feed is as risky for livestock and poultry as it is for humans. The feeding of small amounts of GM vaccine in feed could have long-term consequences.

What is needed is rigorous segregation and monitoring of crops, especially from the US, to prevent contamination. EU Member States and the EU Parliament need to stand firm against the Commission and vested interests and demand that the tolerance level for unapproved traits remains where it is at zero.



[1] Reported by Reuters 26 October 2010

[2] See FOE Europe report No Link Between Animal Feed Crisis and Zero Tolerance Policy (see

[3] See GM Contamination: Imports of food and feed at risk – Measures needed to reduce the threat here.

[4] The two major GM contaminations incident in recent years have both arisen from poor practices by the US biotech industry and have involved untested experimental traits in maize and rice:

  • 2005 unapproved Bt10 maize produced by Syngenta imported from the USA.
  • 2006 unapproved GM LL601 rice produced by Bayer CropScience imported from the USA.

Legal cases taken by US farmers and rice companies against Bayer for the contamination of US long grain rice supplies are still ongoing and so far have resulted in damages of millions of dollars awarded against Bayer for negligence (see GM in The Dock: US Courts step in where regulators fail. Briefing II: Bayer brought to book for contaminating rice,