New European Union labeling laws requiring full traceability of genetically modified organisms have received a lukewarm welcome from the food and supplements industries, which claim the regulations are overly time-consuming, costly and, in many cases, unworkable.
Under the new rules, which became effective April 18, products with ingredients that cannot prove they are free from GMO sources—even if the product itself contains no detectable GMO matter—will have to carry GMO warnings.
Products that in the past may have borne ?GMO-free? labeling will be forced to prove it via traceability. If they can, these products will be permitted to carry non-GMO labels. An accidental GMO allowance of 0.9 percent is permitted in all products.
Many Europeans have been GMO-averse for years and welcomed the labeling law as a way for consumers to make informed choices. Critics, however, fear that at best it will cause confusion and, at worst, fraud. It may even have the unintended consequence of opening the floodgates to GM foods.
?The problem with this legislation is that traceability is not always possible,? said food science and European food law consultant Peter Berry Ottoway. ?It means ? manufacturers will have to stop sourcing raw materials from any suppliers who cannot guarantee 100 percent traceability. Not many suppliers can do this.?
The law may force companies into selling illegal product because they wouldn?t be willing to label products as GMO. ?It is a stable door being closed years too late,? Ottoway added. ?Costs have been going up 20 to 25 percent on some products because of this. It?s an absolute mess.?
The CIAA, an organization representing the EU food and drink industry, has said in British reports that the law will add to consumers? confusion because two different versions of a given product could begin appearing on supermarket shelves: one labeled as containing GMOs because its ingredients were derived from GM sources, even though the final product has no trace of GM material; and one that does contain GM material but carries no such label because it is under the 0.9 percent threshold.
Critics of the law say it will also effectively end the ban that EU countries have imposed on importing and growing GM foods. In fact, despite disagreement among member countries, the EU Commission is widely expected to lift the ban later this year.
Risk assessment of GM foods will be centralized through the European Food Safety Authority. Ten-year authorizations will be granted, after which companies will have to apply for renewal.
Shane Starling is the news editor for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals.
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXV/number 6/p. 16