The European Commission has today (Thursday, May 19) authorised two genetically modified (GM) crops (one maize and one soya bean) for food and animal feed.
The commission’s authorisation decision does not allow for their cultivation in the EU, only for their use as food and animal feed.
These genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have gone through a comprehensive and stringent authorisation procedure, which ensures a high level of protection of human and animal health, and of the environment, according to the commission.
Genetically modified crops
Food and feed generally originates from plants and animals grown and bred by humans for several thousand years.
Over time, those plants and animals with the most desirable characteristics were chosen for breeding the next generation of food and feed. This was, e.g., the case for plants with an increased resistance to environmental pressures, i.e. diseases, or with an increased yield.
These desirable characteristics appeared through naturally occurring variations in the genetic make-up of those plants and animals.
In recent times, it has become possible to modify the genetic make-up of living cells and organisms using techniques of modern biotechnology called gene technology.
The genetic material is modified artificially to give it a new property (e.g. a plant’s resistance to a disease, insect or drought; a plant’s tolerance to a herbicide; improving a food’s quality or nutritional value; increased yield).
Such organisms are GMOs. Food and feed which contain or consist of such GMOs, or are produced from GMOs, are called ‘genetically modified (GM) food or feed’.
Today, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) issued a favourable scientific assessment concluding that these GMOs are as safe as their conventional counterparts.
The commission said that member states did not reach a qualified majority either in favour or against the authorisations at the Standing Committee and at the subsequent Appeal Committee.
The authorisations are valid for 10 years, and any product produced from these GMOs will be subject to the EU’s strict labelling and traceability rules.
Traceability enables tracking GMOs and GM food/feed products at all stages of the supply chain.
According to the EU Commission, traceability also makes labelling of all GMOs and GM food/feed products possible.
It allows for close monitoring of potential effects on the environment and on health. Where necessary it can allow the withdrawal of products if an unexpected risk to human health or to the environment is detected.