A further step marking the importance of the traceability of GMOs in Europe was made yesterday when the European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin inaugurated a European network of genetically modified organism (GMO) laboratories. The new network will consist of more than 45 control laboratories located in EU Member States.
The objective is to improve traceability of GMOs in the food chain and to support regulation of their use in Europe. Co-ordinated by the European Commission's Joint Research Centre, the network will develop and validate methods for detecting and quantifying GMOs in food and feed.
"I welcome the political agreement on the GMO labelling requirements, reached at the agriculture council on 28 November. While robust legislation to regulate the use of GMOs in food and feed is necessary, it is not enough on its own," said Philippe Busquin.
"We have to enforce the legislation and develop reliable, validated tests to verify compliance. I am confident that the network of GMO laboratories will greatly improve our capacity to detect and screen GMOs and to provide a sound scientific basis for enforcing biotechnology legislation. The creation of the network of GMO laboratories provides us with an important tool to ensure that we harvest the potential that biotechnology holds for consumers in a responsible way."
On 28 November 2002, the council of agriculture ministers reached a political agreement on the Commission's proposals for labelling and tracing GMOs in Europe. The draft law provides for all foods in Europe produced from GMOs to be labelled. The council of environment Ministers is set to address the issue of GMO traceability at its meeting on 9 December 2002.
The EU draft law is based on the premise that consumers have the right to choose between products that do or do not contain GMOs. But the food industry has criticised the legislation, maintaining that an increase in the paper trail will not only leave the system open to fraud but will also be impractical and 'unenforceable'. In launching the network of GMO laboratories, the EU clearly recognises that the GMO detection system needs improving to meet the new legislation demands, but will it be enough?