Most New GMOs will end up in food. Those that produce and sell food - the food sector - have responsibility and liability for all their products. Customers rely on them to ensure the safety of their food and customers also want to know what exactly is in their food. This means that a comprehensive risk assessment for all New GMOs is needed, as is traceability and labelling.
Labelling lies at the core of the conventional and organic Non-GMO food sector’s business. Without labelling, the Non-GMO sectors (but in fact, the whole EU feed and food sector) would run the risk to unwittingly and unintentionally sell GMOs to its customers. It will be these businesses – the producers and retailers – that will be confronted with an angry customer’ response should it come to a deregulation.
Transparency and traceability at risk
GMO labelling for new GMO products is highly important for consumers, as well as for all economic operators in the value chain (breeders, farmers, beekeepers, food and feed processors and retailers). Labelling of GMOs enables freedom of choice, transparency, traceability, post-marketing monitoring and product recalls in case a product placed on the market is subsequently found to be harmful.
The current EU GMO legislation and its labelling and traceability requirements means that business operators have control over their food and feed production value chains, and consumers can avoid GMOs in their food (which from surveys, we know that most do not want in their food).
For the conventional Non-GMO sector the “USP” is at stake
Any Non-GMO label needs to be able to fully guarantee “production without the use of genetic engineering” – including old as well as new methods of genetic engineering. Without such a comprehensive claim any label would be pointless and, consequently, invalid to both producers and consumers. This also applies to the organic sector, since EU regulation excludes the use of GMOs for organic products. As a result, with a deregulation a major selling point for organic products would be at stake.
Non-GMO producers and marketers need to have full transparency throughout the whole value chain; products made with or by GMOs need to be identifiable and traceable. This is guaranteed by the current EU GMO legislation with its traceability and labelling requirements for old as well as for New GMOs – but would be severely threatened in case of deregulation or a substantial lowering of regulation standards.
Without traceability and labelling, the conventional and the organic Non-GMO business operators will no longer be able to guarantee that they are GMO-free. And, therefore, the “unique selling point” of the conventional Non-GMO sector and one of the major selling points of the organic sector is seriously at risk. Under a deregulation of New GMOs, both sectors would face massive economic setbacks, if not collapse in the case of the conventional Non-GMO sector, since its entire business model is under threat. Beyond the obvious economic impact this would have, it further diminishes European consumers’ choice.