GMO labelling

By Manon Godot, January 2010

According to the Part C, article 21.1, of the directive 2001/18/EC, “Member States shall take all necessary measures to ensure that at all stages of the placing on the market, the labelling and packaging of GMOs placed on the market as or in products comply with the relevant requirements specified in the written consent referred to in Articles 15(3), 17(5) and (8), 18(2) and 19(3).”

The Art 19.3 (e) specifies that  “The labelling shall clearly state that a GMO is present. The words ‘This product contains genetically modified organisms,’ shall appear either on a label or in a document accompanying the product or other products containing the GMO(s)”. So products present on the European market must carry a mention saying that there are GMOs in it, in order to allow the consumers to make a choice about whether or not they want to consume GMOs. This rule is valid for all food and ingredients derived from GM products and GM animal feed.

However, conventional products may be accidentally contaminated by GMOs during harvesting, storage, transport or processing. In the production of food, feed and seed, it is practically impossible to achieve products that are 100% pure. Taking this into account, the legislation has set limits above which conventional and organic food and feed must be labelled as products consisting of GMOs, containing GMOs or produced from GMOs. These conventional products “contaminated” by authorised GMOs are not, however, subject to traceability and labelling requirements if they contain traces of these GMOs below a limit of 0.9%, provided the presence of this material is adventitious or technically unavoidable. This is the case when operators demonstrate to the competent authorities that they have taken adequate measures to avoid the presence of this material. However, if the product contains less than 0.9% of GMOs, it doesn’t have to be labelled as a GMO product (Art 21.2 directive 2001/18 “For products where adventitious or technically unavoidable traces of authorised GMOs cannot be excluded, a minimum threshold may be established below which these products shall not have to be labelled according to the provision in paragraph 1. The threshold levels shall be established according to the product concerned, under the procedure laid down in Article 30(2)”).

Products derived from animals fed on GM animal feed won’t have to be labelled as GM products either. Meaning that the dairy products, meat and eggs placed on the market will potentially be produced from animals fed on GMOs, the only way to avoid them being the consumption of organic products or products carrying the label “GM free”.


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