Euro-MPs have called for tighter limits on the amount of genetically modified material that is allowed in organic food.
Current legislation allows up to 0.9% “adventitious presence” of GM material in organic produce before it loses its special status. But the European parliament last week voted for this to be reduced to 0.1%, when revised production standards and new EU labelling requirements are introduced later this year.
According to a report from French Green MEP Marie-Helene Aubert, “in the context of ballooning demand for organic food in the EU and the resulting growth in supply, we need to guarantee certainty for consumers about the products they are buying”.
The Soil Association said it welcomed the European parliament’s choice of the “lowest possible threshold for GM contamination of organic food of 0.1%”. “This decision guarantees a healthy, GM-free future for the rapidly growing number of organic farmers in the UK,” said policy director Peter Melchett.
But the reality is that the European parliament’s role is purely consultational. The actual decision will be taken by EU farm ministers in June on the basis of a proposal from the EU Commission.
EU agriculture commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel has made it clear that her preference is for a maximum rate of 0.9% GM in organic food. She maintains that this is enough to secure the integrity of organic food, while catering for the practical realities of the future cultivation of approved GM varieties within the EU.
The NFU agrees that 0.9% is the most practical and achievable solution. “Our interest is to maintain UK farmers’ competitiveness,” said a spokesman. “Sound science is telling us that to go lower than 0.9% is unnecessary.”