Brussels, 29 April 2004
GMO screening: EU Control Network expands to new Member States
As part of the enlargement process, 24 national enforcement laboratories from the acceding countries will today sign an agreement in Prague to become part of the European Network of Genetically Modified Organisms' (GMO) Laboratories (ENGL). The network will assist the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) to manage the detection, identification and quantification of GMOs in food and feed samples across Europe. Under new European Union regulations the JRC has been acting since 18 April as the Community Reference Laboratory (CRL), with the role of co-ordinating the validation of detection methods. Since this date, applications for GM food or feed can now only be granted if the CRL decides, through a series of tests, that the application's methods are accurate and effective in detecting GMOs in food and feed samples.
"We are committed to ensuring the full respect of EU legislation when it comes to GM plants and their derived food and feed products," European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin said. "EU legislation requires a case-by-case assessment of all GM food or feed applications based on scientific evidence. Only products meeting these stringent requirements will be able to be sold in an enlarged EU. Providing a harmonised GMO detection system across Europe will provide consumers with greater choice and accuracy in selecting food products and boost the competitiveness of EU biotech companies."
Enlarged network to improve GMO control system
The ENGL, co-ordinated by the JRC, will help the European Commission to establish a harmonised system to trace GMOs, introduce labelling on GM feed and reinforce existing labelling rules for GM food. The network will also help to set up an authorisation procedure for GMOs in food and feed and their deliberate release into the environment. The ENGL, which previously included 47 control laboratories from Member States will expand to 71 with 24 labs from the Acceding Countries. It aims to bring European sampling strategies and analytical techniques into line by exchanging information between experts, developing robust testing methods and producing reference materials. An enlarged ENGL will greatly improve the network's ability to detect and screen GMOs and provide a sound scientific basis for enforcing biotechnology legislation.
Strong and harmonised controls
Strict new procedures to approve the growth and import or use of GM food and ingredients will strengthen current measures to allow GMOs to be fully traceable in the food chain. These procedures will make EU rules amongst the most stringent in the world and will be binding on all Member States.
Based on EU legislation, inspectors collect and screen food and feed samples for DNA or proteins that indicate genetic modification.
If a screening shows the presence of one or more GMOs, regulations requires that the amount be quantified. Mandatory labelling of food ingredients is guaranteeing the consumer's right to information.
Labelling and tracing GMOs from farm to fork and monitoring them in the environment requires a strong and harmonised analytical approach. There are a large number of technical issues associated with this control process and any mistake could result in serious losses for producers as well as a loss of consumer trust. Biotechnology companies, control authorities, trade partners and importers are coming to terms with the implications of GMO regulations. By creating a strong pan-European network of scientists, the JRC can tackle technical issues in a transparent way, making the regulatory framework more flexible and manageable, as well as boosting public confidence.
Reinforcing consumer choice
Consumers have the right to choose between products that contain or do not contain GMOs. Detection methods require up-to-date equipment, skilled researchers and robust harmonised testing procedures to establish appropriate sampling strategies to accurately determine levels in samples. Building on scientific expertise, the JRC and ENGL can ensure an equitable balance between the interests of all concerned, resulting in a clear analytical control system. The enlarged ENGL will also help promote and develop the European Research Area (ERA) by expanding available scientific excellence and ensuring policy compliance in an enlarged EU. It will provide a system to help supervise the food chain, allowing the biotechnology community to develop higher yielding crops or more nutritious food products, while also ensuring the well being of consumers.
Further information can be found at:
The following organisations will become a part of the European Network of GMO laboratories: