Today in AgBioView from www.agbioworld.org - April 1, 2004:
* Norman conquest
* Why do you believe in biotech?
* RE: Bayer decides against GM crop cultivation in the UK
* Terminology - Defining GM
* Biotech Crop Usage Surges
* India Produces Homegrown GM Cotton
* Is Repugnance Wise? Visceral Responses To Biotechnology
* Monsanto fails to gain Australia approval for GM crop trial
* New GM labelling rules kick off in April
- The Guardian, By John Vidal, March 31, 2004
Just who persuaded Tony Blair to congratulate Norman Borlaug on his 90th birthday? Few people outside the fevered GM debate know that Borlaug, an American Nobel prize winner in 1970, is known as the "father of the green revolution" and that for some years has been the world's most eminent pro-GM activist. But Blair is pleased to thank him, "on behalf of the government and the British people", for his "lifelong selfless devotion to the humanitarian cause of bringing the benefits of scientific discovery in food production to those most in need". Hmmmm.
It's a rap
We've had pro-GM Phillip Stott, a professor of biology at London University adapting Shakespeare, but now the indomitable CS Prakash, professor in plant molecular genetics at Tuskegee University who runs the pro-GM website AgBioWorld.org, has got his son Rogan to literally rap the praises of Borlaug. Here's a sample:
"Norman Borlaug, you may be
the greatest man in history.
Using science and your brain
to stamp out hunger, woe and pain.
Creating new varieties
of plants with new technologies.
You're the man we look up to.
That is why we're thanking you."
The prof says he didn't write the words.
(Note: "The Norman Borlaug Rap" is available at
From: Robin Turner
Why do you believe in biotech? Do you not care for natural biodiversity? Do you not think that the problems we have with food production can be solved using natures existing species? The entire premise of biotechnology exacerbates the problem which will lead to the downfall of society, that people think they are smarter than nature.
I believe in biotech because it can help us produce more food, better food and in ways to protect biodiversity. If we do not embrace new technologies (as we have always done that since we walked out of caves), we will be farming on every square inch of land to feed ourselves.
What is natural biodiversity? Every crop that you grow in Canada came from elsewhere and you cleared million of hectares of native forest land to grow them. Every crop on earth is unnatural - modified by us over thousands of years using a variety of tools, and biotechnology is just one new method - a better one because it is more precise.
There has not been one single problem with using biotech in agriculture so far and so please be an optimist - there will not be a downfall of society or any such doomsay scenarios that you keep hearing from greenies.
Yes, nature is beautiful and wonderful... but not all of it. Please remember that HUMANITY HAS SURVIVED BY SELECTIVELY ALTERING THE NATURE AROUND US. As long as we do it responsibly, it is OK. It is not being disrespectful but just being practical. AIDS, Small Pox, Malaria -- are all nature. Would you avoid a Ceasarean birth for your child so as not to be smarter than nature? Would you stop giving vaccine shots and antibiotics to your child for that reason?
If you just want to be part of nature and do not want to BE SMARTER THAN NATURE, you should go back to the neolithic age and try living as hunters and gatherers...even then, you would be harnessing nature to support yourself. Civilizations have thrived and survived by being smart and innovative; those who didn't simply perished.
I hope this helps,
Subject: RE: Bayer decides against GM crop cultivation in the UK
Date: Wed, 31 Mar 2004 17:45:16 -0800
From: "Sivramiah Shantharam"
Déjà vu! All Over again!
Bayer's decision not to commercialize its GM corn in UK will be music to the ears of the anti-biotech lobby in Europe. This is precisely what they have been dreaming of for long.
If Governments support GM technology based on sound scientific advise and add caveats (to please detractors and opponents) that makes it prohibitively expensive to comply with it is as good as banning it for reason other than safety is a sure way to kill the development of technology. Similar thing has just happened in Germany where restaurants are asked to label any food that contains GMO.
Now, what kind of approval is this? Do the authorities stop to think how impossible is it to comply with these unscientific regulations? The cost of regulations is going through the roof at this rate, and it is given that if developing countries adopt such rules on labeling, and segregations after KL biosafety protocol meetings, then there is no hope for large scale commercialization of GMO there either as the basic infrastructure to handle commodities are so inadequate to comply with the requirements.
Europeans are doing one thing after another to really kill development.
- Shanthu Shantharam, Biologistics International LLC, Ellicott City, MD
Date: Thu, 01 Apr 2004 09:50:49 -0400
From: "Bob MacGregor"
Subject: Re: Terminology
Paul Christensen falls into the same trap he is leery of when he uses the
term "conventional breeding". This is just as loaded a term as is "GM".
As long as the dichotomy can be maintained by the antis, then the molecular breeding/modern biotech/GE varieties will be subject to bans, moratoria, extra regulation and testing, etc.-- all of which reinforce the cycle of consumer concern->industrial rejection->political sanction.
The government likes to give lip service to the idea that it is the trait that is important not the way the trait was introduced, but the behaviour
of regulators in the real world belie this claim. If it is GM by origin,
it is damned to a course of regulatory and bureaucratic hurdles which are not applied to "conventional" varieties no matter how exotic they may be.
I'm not convinced that trying to invent new terminologies will convince or educate anyone that things are somehow different and less scary (certainly not as long as the fear-mill continues to crank out scare-a-day stories and press releases). Until the more modern and controlled techniques of variety production become "conventional", this will remain an uphill battle.
[Sorry for the negativism, but I'm especially pessimistic this morning after having sat through a GMO-ban public meeting last evening.]
Date: Wed, 31 Mar 2004 18:53:17 -0600
From: "Andrew Apel"
Subject: Defining GM
Re: Defining "GM" (AgBioView, Wed, 31 Mar 2004) I agree completely with Federoff and Christiansen on the difficulties of defining GM or even the justifications of using the term itself. This is hardly a new topic of discussion but remains as germane as when it first cropped up. When this listserv first began, I suggested defining GM as, if recollection serves, "a crop improvement method your grandfather would never have though of" or something like that.
Obviously a lame and unsophisticated definition, but that's how it's used--in the popular press and amongst the technophobes who feed an unsophisticated media with the spectacles they crave; Delphic pronunciations of doom for (insert anything here) that sell newspapers, which sell advertising, which in turn keeps reporters on the payroll.
That's part of the problem, but it's not the only problem. Reporters are against deadlines and publications compete against each other to be the first out with "shocking revelations" and so forth. In between, there isn't a lot of time for contemplation, much less interviewing a scientist who challenges your orthographical abilities to the limit by using words longer than "Bush" and "Kerry" and the words aren't even in the pocket-book edition of Webster's Dictionary.
So just saying "GM" saves the reporter a lot of mental labor and saves the reader the head-scratching involved in understanding a new innovation.
News reporters and the public at large could get around the abused and misused term "GM" by becoming truly interested and engaged in the actual science involved. The elegance and ingenuity of the technologies collectively termed "GM" remain tragically ignored by this two-letter shorthand for what remains largely misunderstood, and new marvels in the field emerge daily.
This is hardly anything new. The US currently has a mission on Mars. How much news coverage is there of intricate innovations that made this possible? What propellants were used? What special polymers to handle vast swings in temperature? What information-compression algorithms, machine vision, the coverage isn't there. Basically, we have a micro-sized dune buggy that takes pictures of rocks and that's about all anyone hears, and some television personalities even make jokes about it.
For years, I've been waiting for someone to pick up on the notion that genetic engineering of plants is the ultimate in solar-powered technology. Maybe that would get some interest or generate curiosity. I cringe every time I use the term "GM" in my editorial position, but I use it anyway--to distinguish between whatever that might be and conventional breeding (by which I mean, playing with pollen, which still remains a worthwhile effort). At least I take the time to explain how the novel technology works--but I don't see anything like that coming to home-town newspapers any time soon.
We're stuck with "GM" and "dune buggy on Mars" until the public gets interested in how cool science really is, but first, you have to get them away from grabbing the sports section of the newspaper first. When I figure that out, I'll be at the patent office the following day.
Biotech Crop Usage Surges
- Biotechnology Industry Organization, 3/31/04
Contact: Lisa Dry, BIO 202-962-9231
WASHINGTON (March 31, 2004) - Dr. Michael J. Phillips, vice president, food and agriculture, science and regulatory policy, of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), issued the following statement in response to today's release of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Survey grower planting intentions survey for 2004.
"Today's grower survey confirms the continued acceptance of biotech crops by U.S. farmers and their recognition of the economic, agronomic and environmental advantages of biotech crops. Since their introduction in 1996, there has been a yearly increase in the number of acres planted with biotech seeds in nearly every crop category. Farmers, when given access to these improved crops, continue to choose the biotech alternative.
"The use of biotech crops continues to rise in the United States, evidence that farmers have found that biotechnology can improve crops' resistance to disease and pests, increase yields and reduce the use of pesticides. With the introduction of new pest-resistant products last year, acreage of biotech corn plantings are up 9.7 percent to 46 percent of all corn planted in the U.S.; biotech soybean acreage increased 9.2 percent to 86 percent of all plantings; and biotech cotton acreage increased 9.1 percent to 76 percent of all plantings.
"The last year has seen an increased acceptance of agricultural biotechnology globally with biotech crops planted in 18 countries on more than 167 million acres, with a 15 percent increase in 2003 over 2002."
BIO represents more than 1,000 biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations in all 50 U.S. states and 33 other nations. BIO members are involved in the research and development of health-care, agricultural, industrial and environmental biotechnology products. For more information, please visit www.bio.org.
Note to Editors: The USDA report is at www.usda.gov/nass/PUBS/TODAYRPT/pspl0304.pdf.
Corn Planted Acreage Up Fractionally from 2003
Soybean Acreage Up 3 Percent
All Wheat Acreage Down 4 Percent
All Cotton Acreage Up 7 Percent
- National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), Agricultural Statistics Board, U.S. Department of Agriculture, March 31, 2004
Corn planted area for all purposes is estimated at 79.0 million acres, up fractionally from both 2002 and 2003. Expected acreage is up from last year throughout much of the Corn Belt as growers are hoping to take advantage of higher corn prices. However, most States in the Southeast and southern Great Plains are intending to decrease their corn plantings as producers are switching to soybeans and cotton due to more favorable prices relative to corn.
Soybean growers intend to plant an estimated 75.4 million acres, up 3 percent from last year. If realized, this will be the largest planted area on record and a rebound from the three year decline in acreage. Growers in all States, except South Dakota and Wisconsin, intend to plant more than or at least as many acres of soybeans as last year. Current high prices are encouraging many producers to plant more soybeans, with the largest acreage increases expected in North Dakota, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Minnesota.
All wheat planted area is expected to total 59.5 million acres in 2004, down 4 percent from 2003. Winter wheat planted area for the 2004 crop is 43.4 million acres, down 3 percent from 2003. Of the total, about 30.9 million acres are Hard Red Winter, 8.3 million acres are Soft Red Winter, and 4.2 million acres are White Winter. The 2004 other spring wheat planted acreage is estimated at 13.3 million, down 4 percent from last year. Of the total, about 12.7 million acres are Hard Red Spring wheat. Area planted to Durum wheat is intended to total 2.76 million acres, down 5 percent from a year ago.
All Cotton plantings for 2004 are expected to total 14.4 million acres, 7 percent above last year. Upland acreage is expected to total 14.2 million acres, also a 7 percent increase. All States are expecting more acreage than last year except for North Carolina and Mississippi. American-Pima cotton growers intend to increase their plantings to 226,600 acres, up 27 percent from 2003. The increase is primarily in California where producers are intending to plant 50,000 acres more than last year.
Full report at http://www.usda.gov/nass/PUBS/TODAYRPT/pspl0304.pdf
India Produces Homegrown GM Cotton
- Nature Biotechnology, By KS Jayaraman, March 2004 Vol. 22, N0.3 pp 255-256; www.nature.com (Reproduced in AgBioView with the permission of the editor)
'India is now developing its own GM technology to protect cotton from pests.'
Swarna Bharat Biotechnics Private (SBBPL; Hyderabad, India), a consortium of seven Indian seed companies, is set to break Monsanto's monopoly on genetically modified (GM) cotton in the country by receiving licenses to two genes (with a third license due in April) that transfer resistance against a variety of local pests. The consortium hopes the commercialization of GM crops that are developed by local public research laboratories will allow India to enter an era of self-sustaining agbiotech development.
"We are going to source beneficial genes from any publicly funded laboratory where they are available," says Satish Kumar, managing director of the SBBPL. The consortium is set to license a 'lectin' gene (LecGNA 2) that produces a protein lethal to sucking pests, such as aphids, from the publicly funded Center for Plant Molecular Biology (CPMB) at the Osmania University (Hyderabad, India) by April, this year. The CPMB has already engineered rice that resists sucking pests, and the SBBPL plans to develop GM cotton with similar traits.
Already, the consortium has licensed two indigenously developed genes derived from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) that protect cotton against bollworm (Helicoverpa armigera) and tobacco caterpillar (Spodoptera litura) from the National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI; Lucknow, India) for Rs.7.5 ($0.16) million over a three-year period and a royalty of 3%, in October 2003 (see Box 1). By combining the insect resistant technologies, the consortium could help save at least Rs.10
($0.2) billion now spent on pesticides. Indeed, 90% of damage in cotton is due to bollworm and sap sucking pests that can wipe out an entire harvest, if unprotected. Indian farmers currently spend Rs.16 ($0.35) billion on chemical pesticides.
With its novel cotton varieties, SBBPL members -- which currently command a 30% share of the total Indian cotton seed market-could claim a share of the Rs.30 ($0.66) billion-a-year Bt cotton market in India, currently monopolized by the joint-venture company Monsanto-Mahyco Biotech (Mumbai, India). Bt cotton represented an estimated 60,000 acres in the 2002-2003 planting season and 200,000 acres in 2003-2004, compared to 22 million acres for conventional cotton.
Local development of GM crops is "the best thing that has happened to [India's] biotech industry," says Virender Lal Chopra, president of the National Academy of Agricultural sciences (New Delhi). "Firstly, the know-how is indigenous; secondly, it provides for smaller players' access to a costly technology that has been the monopoly of multinationals." Kumar explains that the main benefit for consortium members is low cost "because we share the technology access fee." He expects the price of SBBPL seeds to be two-thirds of that of Monsanto's.
Low cost aside, the advantages of sourcing indigenous technology are "economic and strategic," adds Kumar. "Although 70% of the royalties from sales of Monsanto's seeds goes to the US company, there is no outflow of royalties in our case," he says. Indeed, profit made by public laboratories from licensing fees could be reinvested to develop more agbiotech products that serve local needs. "Secondly, we can get help from our Indian partners on regulatory issues" to help get product approval, unlike before when "foreign collaborators expected us to handle these on our own, sometimes leading to losses," Kumar adds.
Activist groups critical of Monsanto are happy about the impending competition. "So far, 42% of our transgenic cotton research has been based on Monsanto's gene and this is absurd," said Suman Sahai, convener of Gene Campaign (New Delhi). "Finally, we seem to be getting our act together."
Monsanto, however, is not afraid of competition. "The consortium is just in the beginning of a long process," says Ranjana Smetacek, the company's spokesperson in India. "Evidently our technology is well established and our gene has been colicensed to nine more Indian companies whose products are under different stages of development." Rather than being worried, Smetacek says Monsanto welcomes any move that makes the use of Bt cotton "more widespread." Yet, Monsanto suffered a regulatory setback on its latest Bt cotton hybrid developed for northern Indian states such as Punjab when the hybrid failed to be approved in 2003 because it is susceptible to curl leaf virus (Nat. Biotechnol. 21, 590-591, 2003).
Meanwhile, NBRI's deputy director, Rakesh Tuli, says that his institute's parent body, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (New Delhi) is examining in great detail possibilities for exporting the technology and preparing the list of countries where it could be patented. In addition, says Ebrahimali Siddiq, former deputy director general of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (New Dehli), the consortium may try to exploit those GM technologies on crops for which patents held by multinationals are now expiring.
With such wide perspectives, the consortium could soon gain momentum across the country. Prabhakar Rao, managing director of Nuziveedu Seeds (Hyderabad, India), the largest company in the consortium, said the membership will soon reach 19 because "many other companies are wanting to join us."
Is Repugnance Wise? Visceral Responses To Biotechnology
- Nature Biotechnology, Leigh Turner, March 2004 Vol. 22, N0.3 ; pp 269 - 270 www.nature.com (Reproduced in AgBioView with the permission of the editor)
'Feeling hungry? Certain products of biotech are not palatable to everyone.' I still remember the first time someone invited me to try sushi. Yuk! Raw fish, I thought. How disgusting. An enlightened person would next proceed to tell you how he or she overcame this initial revulsion and learned to love Oshizushi and Nigiri. Sadly, I am not that person. Sushi still seems pretty yucky to me, though I concede belonging to a small and diminishing minority. When I go to a Japanese restaurant, I order the beef teriyaki. "You still eat beef?" I can hear someone saying with horror. Yuk!
Disgust is not a particularly discerning, reflective reaction. Disgust is visceral, immediate, and remarkably powerful. Something truly repugnant can make you vomit or turn away in disgust. Many of us cannot look at a crushed animal on the roadside without feeling queasy and repulsed.
While many individuals are disinclined to link a sense of disgust to the study of ethical issues in biotech, several scholars attend to the moral significance of revulsion. Mary Midgley, for example, is the author of Biotechnology and Monstrosity: Why We Should Pay Attention to the 'Yuk Factor.'1 Leon Kass, Chairman of The President's Council on Bioethics in the United States, is the author of The Wisdom of Repugnance: Why We Should Ban the Cloning of Humans, a widely cited critique of reproductive cloning of humans2. Exploring the ethics of human cloning, Kass writes:
We are repelled by the prospect of cloning human beings not because of the strangeness or novelty of the undertaking, but because we intuit and feel, immediately and without argument, the violation of things that we rightfully hold dear. Repugnance, here as elsewhere, revolts against the excesses of human willfulness, warning us not to transgress what is unspeakably profound. Indeed, in this age in which everything is held to be permissible so long as it is freely done, in which our given human nature no longer commands respect, in which our bodies are regarded as mere instruments of our autonomous rational wills, repugnance may be the only voice left that speaks up to defend the central core of our humanity. Shallow are the souls that have forgotten how to shudder.
Kass and Midgley make some important points in their work. When our initial reaction to something is one of immediate, visceral disgust, we will often have reason to attend carefully to these intimations. Kass and Midgley make a sensible claim: moral deliberation is not just a hyperintellectual enterprise of identifying logical fallacies and cool ratiocination. There are, however, two very large problems with attending to the 'yuk factor' or the 'wisdom of repugnance.' When we recognize these pitfalls, we can see the perils of developing arguments and crafting laws on the basis of a sense of 'repugnance.'
First, proponents of the 'wisdom of repugnance' expend a lot of words discussing how 'we' feel. 'We' find this or that phenomenon repulsive. 'We' experience a visceral sense of disgust when confronted with various biotechnologies. However, Kass, Midgley, and other proponents of the wisdom of repugnance do a miserable job of demonstrating that there is a common 'we' experiencing shared visceral reactions to various biotechnologies. There is no uniform 'we' experiencing shared reactions to in vitro fertilization, genetic testing, prenatal diagnosis, and embryonic stem cell research. Rather, there are very different ways of responding to such technologies. One problem with drawing upon the wisdom of repugnance is that many citizens simply do not have the assumed response of revulsion to particular biotechnologies.
The rhetorical use of 'we' conceals the diverse moral understandings found in multicultural, multifaith liberal democracies. Often, biotechnologies generate variable responses. Some individuals are appalled at the very notion of creating genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Studies demonstrating the safety of GMOs will not change their minds. It is the phenomenon of GMOs that they find repugnant. Other individuals have no such reaction. Rather, many individuals are supportive of creating GMOs. They see developments in agbiotech addressing important health and nutrition problems.
Second, perhaps a more important problem with drawing upon the 'wisdom' of repugnance is that reactions of disgust are often built upon prejudices that should be challenged and rebutted rather than regarded as sources of moral insight. For example, in the United States, many individuals have thought -- and some doubtless still think -- that there is nothing more disgusting than a black man having an intimate emotional, sexual, and intellectual relationship with a white woman, or a white man having such a relationship with a black woman. Racists opposed to such social relations are quick to invoke the language of moral transgression, abomination, repugnance, boundary violations, and transgressions of 'nature.'
Just as some individuals confuse racism with moral perceptiveness, many individuals think there is nothing more disgusting than the prospect of a man having as a partner another man or a woman partnering with another woman. While some individuals support gay rights and gay marriages, other individuals react with revulsion and disgust. They see no need to provide arguments for their views. They think everyone should react with the same sense of repugnance.
We should thus be wary about equating visceral reactions of revulsion with moral wisdom. Sometimes, disgust and repugnance are better recognized as ignorance, prejudice, and discrimination. Instead of regarding such reactions as displaying moral wisdom, they are better regarded as revealing deep-rooted prejudices that deserve to be unmasked, challenged, and rebutted.
There are instances where initial reactions of uncertainty, fear, and disgust deserve to be heeded. Occasionally, there are intimations of wisdom in reactions of repugnance. But there are as many instances where reactions of repugnance are more thoughtfully recognized as responses of prejudice and ignorance, reflecting our crudest convictions. Rather than celebrating such visceral responses, we should be on guard when we have such reactions. Labeling particular biotechnologies as intuitively 'yucky' or 'repugnant' does not make a particularly useful contribution to public ethical debate.
1. Midgley, M. Hastings Center Report 30, 7-15 (2000).
2. Kass, L. The New Republic 17-26 (June 2, 1997).
Leigh Turner is Assistant Professor, Biomedical Ethics Unit, Department of Social Studies of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, McGill University, 3647 Peel Street, Montreal, Quebec H3A 1X1, Canada and 2003-2004 Member, Institute for Advanced Study, School of Social Science, Einstein Drive, Princeton, NJ 08540, USA. e-mail: turner
Monsanto fails to gain Australia approval for GM crop trial
- AFX European Focus, April 1, 2004
Monsanto Co has failed to secure approval to establish a commercial-scale trial of genetically modified (GM) canola in Australia after objections from AWB Ltd, the country's main grain exporter, officials said.
The New South Wales state government said it rejected an application by Monsanto to grow 3,000 hectares of GM canola.
NSW Agriculture Minister Ian Macdonald said AWB, formerly the Australian Wheat Board, had raised concerns the trial could hurt Australia's wheat export market.
"AWB is the largest exporter by a significant factor; we have to be very careful we don't upset their markets," he said.
Monsanto said it was extremely disappointed with the decision.
"The biggest losers are NSW farmers and the environment in which they farm," Monsanto executive director Claude Gauchat said.
The rejection further widens restrictions on GM crops in Australia - the Western Australian and Tasmanian state governments both announced plans last month for outright bans while Victoria state extended a moratorium on GM crops until 2008 Wednesday.
The federal government has no power to overturn the bans, even though it strongly supports the use of the technology.
The National Farmers Federation said Australia needs large, commercial scale trials of GM crops if it is to remain competitive with global rivals.
"We are concerned that we may be putting ourselves at a disadvantage with otehr countries that are doing these large-scale trials," federation presidnet Peter Corish said.
Australia has limited plantings of two GM crops -- cotton and carnations
-- and the regulator has also approved two types of GM canola.
For more information and to contact AFX: www.afxnews.com and www.afxpress.com
New GM labelling rules kick off in April
- FoodProductionDaily.com, 01/04/2004
In under one month European food and beverage manufacturers face an exponential increase in paperwork as new rules on GM ingredients come into force, setting up a ‘Dante-esque’ paper trail for the tracking of GMOs. The rules will weigh heavily on the food industry that argued from the outset the legislation had gone too far, writes Lindsey Partos.
From 18 April all ingredients that contain or consist of genetically modified organisms, or contain ingredients produced from GMOs, must be labelled and traceable - a system that will lean heavily on traceability. The rules also set up a centralised procedure to consider applications to grow and market GMOs in the European Union.
"The options for the food industry are reformulation to change the ingredients in a product or label," a spokesperson for the European food manufacturers body the CIAA told FoodNavigator.com, adding that the only way to implement the new regulations for manufacturers was to have complete certificates from each supplier, heralding the launch of an infernal paper chain.
The new rules from Brussels - (EC) 1830/2003 on the Traceability and Labelling of GMOs and (EC) 1829/2003 on Genetically Modified (GM) Food and Feed – find their source in consumer suspicions of GM foods. The rules are set up to bring choice to the consumer – if they see ‘GM ingredient’ on the label they can decide to buy, or not. Today this option does not exist.
Under the new rules, a threshold of 0.9 per cent will apply for the accidental presence of GM material, below which labelling of food or feed is not required. But for the Confederation of the food and drink industries of the EU (CIAA), the threshold versus derivative slant of the law could leave the door open to confusion for the consumer reading the label.
"Two different products will appear on the supermarket shelves - a product derived from GMOs but with no GM material present will be labelled as such, whereas a food product that has GM material present but which is under the threshold will not require a label. This could be misleading," said the CIAA, the voice of the €600 billion European food and drink industry.
When Brussels first mooted the rules, the food industry fell on the side of detectability. You either detect, or you don’t, said the spokesperson. The rules coming into force on 18 April fall in favour of traceability.
"Third, fourth, fifth generation food ingredients derived from genetically modified foodstuffs will have to be labelled. A glucose syrup, for example, derived from starch, that in turn hails from a GM maize, will have to be labelled as such," said the CIAA.
Efforts are underway to help food and beverage manufacturers get to grips with the new rules. At a European level, the CIAA will issue in the next two weeks a 30 page guideline to be sent out to all members. Nationally, goverment agencies and industry bodies have set up consultations and workshops.
In the UK, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) have published draft documents that describe the scope of the new rules. In addition they have launched a formal consultation on the draft legislation, which includes penalties for breaking the new rules, a draft regulatory impact assessment and draft guidance notes for stakeholders.
The UK’s Food and Drink Federation will hold a workshop for manufactuers on 19 April with speakers including Patrick Deboyser, head of food law and biotechnology at the European Commission, and Dr Clair Baynton, head of novel foods branch 1 at the FSA.