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GM Freeze says Zero Should Mean Zero – No imports of untested GMOs

Immediate release (12 Nov 2010)

Calls to Pete Riley 07903 341 065

GM Freeze today described the European Commission’s “Technical Solution” to the low-level presence of unauthorised GMOs in feed imports as “a solution without a problem”.

The EC want to drop the current zero tolerance policy toward unauthorised GMOs in imports of animal feed. In their response to the FSA’ s invitation-only consultation about the EC’s proposals, GM Freeze outline the potential risks to human and animal health, the environment and the food and feed markets in the EU. [1] GM Freeze also points out that the EC has completely ignored the very strong public opposition to GMOs across the EU.

The proposal means some GMOs will not have not been through the EU’s safety assessment procedure when they enter the food chain. Defra claims this will fix the “problem” of feed import shipments being rejected at EU ports due to “asynchronous approvals” – that is, producer countries approving GMOs before the EU does. If implemented this will lead routine low-level GM contamination. GM Freeze want the existing zero tolerance policy to be retained and to be better enforced.

GM Freeze point out a number of critical flaws in the EC proposals:

  • There is no “problem”, at best it is greatly exaggerated – a mere 0.2% of all feed shipments have been rejected for containing unapproved GMOs, and none at all since June 2009.
  • All the rejected shipments came from the US because of lax segregation practices there. Other exporting countries are able to meet EU requirements.
  • The EU does not need the US shipments anyway because other countries, like Argentina and Brazil, provide ample supplies of feed (GM and non-GM).
  • There is a high probability of food contamination with unapproved traits because imports are often destined for food as well as animal feed.
  • Unapproved GM traits may not have regulatory approval anywhere in the world, so there are significant health risks from importing untested or partially tested crops, which could include GM traits to produce pharmaceutical products such as animal vaccines.

The proposals give no suggestions as to how liability will be handled if something goes wrong once this low-level contamination enters the food chain.

Pete Riley of GM Freeze said:

The Commission proposals are a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist, and they put human and animal safety at risk from contamination with GMOs that may never have undergone any safety testing anywhere in the world.

The Commission appears to assume that all applications for new GMOs will be automatically approved, so there is no reason to keep them out of the food chain. This is surely not the case, and if it is, why do we bother to have an EU safety assessment when we can just import whatever the US produces?

The cases of contamination leading to shipment rejection that have occurred have been few and small, and these can be addressed in the future by more rigorous enforcement of the current regulations and better monitoring at ports.

What’s really worrying is that this measure is totally unnecessary. We’d like to ask and the UK Government and the Commission – How many rejected shipments would have qualified under these new exemptions anyway? How do these proposals do anything to fix the alleged problem?



[1] See GM Freeze Response to Defra’s consultation on the European Commission’s “Technical Solution” to the Low-level Presence of Unauthorised GMOs here.