Germany to oppose easing of genetically modified trace rule
Reuters, 11 June 2012
HAMBURG - Germany will oppose any European Union move to allow traces of unapproved genetically-modified (GM) organisms in food, a step the EU has already taken in animal feed, a spokesman for the German Agriculture and Consumer Protection Ministry said on Monday.
In 2011, the EU adopted new rules allowing traces of unapproved GM material in animal feed imports, to prevent disruption to feed grain imports as GM crops are introduced more quickly in other regions than the EU approves new types.
But German Farming and Consumer Protection Minister Ilse Aigner would oppose any move to end the zero-tolerance rule for unapproved GM content in imports of human food, a ministry spokesman said, confirming a newspaper report.
Aigner believes changing the zero-tolerance rule for food imports would damage the rights of consumers to buy GM-free food if they wish and would also reduce transparency of food labelling, the spokesman said.
EU policy on GM crops has long been politically fraught, with a majority of European consumers opposed to modified foods, but with GM crops now making up a large proportion of harvests in North and South America.
New GM strains are approved most years in these regions but such crops cannot be imported by the EU even in trace amounts until given the green light by the bloc's approvals process.
Germany expects the EU Commission, the bloc's executive arm, to issue a new proposal to permit a 0.1 percent level of unapproved GMs in foods, the spokesman said.
Food industry lobbies in Germany and other countries are pressing for a modest level of non-approved GMs to be permitted in food to prevent disruption to trade. In 2009, U.S. soybean shipments to Europe were blocked after small traces of unapproved GM material were found in some cargoes.
Such trace amounts commonly come from trucks, rail wagons or ships previous used to transport other GM crops.
This led to the EU decision to permit a 0.1 percent level of unapproved GMs in animal feeds but not human food.
But even such small amounts are opposed by some environmentalists who argue that the effect of consuming GM crops is unknown.
Disruption suffered by animal feed imports because of the GM issue have not been seen in the food sector, the ministry spokesman added.
The European court ruling in September 2011 about unapproved GMs in honey also confirmed the principle of zero tolerance in food, the spokesman said.
Honey containing even small traces of pollen from GM plants must receive prior EU authorisation before it can be sold as food, Europe's highest court had said.
(Reporting by Michael Hogan; editing by Jason Neely)