New rule threatens organic integrity

Date Published: 11/01/2006

Rules allowing organic food products to contain up to 0.9% genetically modified material are putting the organic sector at risk, leading organisations have warned.

OF&G Chief Executive, Richard Jacobs, interviewed on ITV News
OF&G Chief Executive, Richard Jacobs, interviewed on ITV News

The level is contained in the draft Regulation on Organic Production, adopted by the European Commission.

While organic systems (and the certification bodies that regulate them) ban all GM material from food, the EU recommendation allows for products found to contain up to 0.9% GM material to continue to be sold as organic. This is the same level as for non-organic food.

Organic Farmers & Growers has condemned this move as putting the integrity of the organic system at risk. Friends of the Earth has also slammed the move and sought independent legal advice which suggests the current Organic Regulation does not allow GM contamination at any level.

Speaking on BBC Radio Four’s Farming Today programme OF&G Chief Executive, Richard Jacobs, said: “This 0.9 per cent is a tiny amount and we do need to bear that in mind, but I don’t think anybody who buys organic food would expect there to be any genetically modified organisms in there.

“We have got to protect what people expect of organic food. We sell organic food because people trust the integrity of the system.”

He added: “I do think it will impact on the sales of organic food. I think there are serious concerns about genetically modified organisms and the effect they may have on the human body. I think a lot of people who buy organic food do so because they want it and expect it to be GM free and it’s going to be much harder now to reassure them that that is the case.”

Discussing the issue on ITV News, Mr Jacobs told presenter Alastair Stewart that the risk of cross-contamination was the single biggest problem with GM crops.

He said: “The wind can disperse pollen sometimes over massive distances and we cannot stop that. I think it’s a real issue for organic farmers and also for non-organic farmers who don’t want to be polluted by GM pollen and don’t want to grow GM crops.”

Friends of the Earth said that the move was “clearly putting the biotech industry before organic farmers and consumers.”