Preventing contamination

European policy prevents the sale of any food or seeds contaminated with genetically-modified organisms (GMO) that have not passed the European Union’s safety tests. This policy is called ‘zero tolerance’. Even if the GMOs are only found in ‘trace amounts’, their import and marketing is illegal. However, this public health policy is now under attack from big agribusiness and food companies. The removal of this ‘zero tolerance’ policy would significantly increase the likelihood of non-authorised GMOs contaminating our food, feed and seed.

After a prolonged campaign by agribusiness, a similar ‘zero tolerance’ policy for animal feed imports was dropped in July 2011. However, despite the intention to ease controls on global trade, the new law will lead to more testing and greater costs for the food and feed sector. It will also place more burdens on food companies wanting to demonstrate that their products are non-GM and raises a number of legal uncertainties, since ‘zero tolerance’ is an integral part of the European Union’s existing laws on GMOs.

If food companies want to be protected against expensive recalls caused by the illegal contamination of their products, they should call for and support the high standards inherent in the ‘zero tolerance’ policy, as applied in previous incidents with contaminated imports of US rice and Canadian linseed.

Friends of the Earth Europe believes that the European Union’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy upholds the safety and well-being of European citizens and should not be dismantled as a result of the unfounded claims of the biotech industry. We also believe that food companies should also support this to protect themselves from costly and unwanted produce recalls following future food contamination incidents.

Friends of the Earth demands that:

  • The European Union’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy for non-approved GMOs remains in force. European law must not be undermined, and food and seed laws must not be weakened.
  • In order to identify non-approved GMOs, a comprehensive global register for all GMOs that have been trialled is needed. It has to include all authorised GMOs, and all GMOs tested in field trials, whether or not they were subsequently put forward for authorisation.
  • The polluter pays principle and a liability regime must be established in order to ensure that those who contaminate food and feed with GMOs are held responsible and pay compensation for the economic damage caused by such contamination.