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Shot across the bows of law-makers on GM contamination

Date Published: 20/10/2011

The IFOAM EU Group, the European arm of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, has sent a strong message to the European Commission on the co-existence of GM farming.

We believe this was something that needed saying clearly to the law-makers, and needs saying over and over again, if needs be. From our perspective it’s not a blinkered, anti-technology stance, but a hugely important matter that needs to be got right ASAP, before non-GM farming across the region is irreparably damaged by the spread of a technology that is proving not to work and which is not popular with the population in general.

Here, in full, is the IFOAM EU Group press release:

GMO industry must prevent contamination and pay for damages they cause

Socio-economic impacts of GMOs are yet insufficiently appraised in EU

Brussels, 18/10/2011– The IFOAM EU Group urges the European Commission to take its conference today on the socio-economic dimensions of GMO cultivation as a starting point for serious efforts to solve the pressing issues caused by GMO cultivation and to include the socio-economic impacts on the non GM food chain in further considerations. Currently, the organic sector already faces heavy economic costs to keep its production free of GM contamination through different prevention measures, quality management and product recalls.

“Organic farmers in regions where GMOs are grown suffer price losses of more than one third of their maize price[i], loss of markets and reputation for organic farmers in cases of GMO contamination; as well as costs incurred to avoid damages such as changing the time of sowing or giving up certain crops, and avoiding shared machinery. It is high time that the Commission appraises the socio-economic costs of GMO cultivation for the non-GMO food sector which often threatens the existence of entire farm and food chains. The Commission report of April 2011, along with JRC research, has partly ignored these issues and when the issues where addressed they were insufficiently covered,” criticises Marco Schlüter, Director of IFOAM EU Group2[ii] and speaker at this conference.

”To put an end to these negative impacts, EU wide, legally binding co-existence rules that prevent the contamination of non-GM crops with GMOs are an often repeated demand of our sector and must be finally put in place. It is a scandal, that 12 EU member states still do not have any legislation to protect GMO free farming; whereas the rules in most member states which have legislation in place are still too weak to guarantee the freedom of choice for GMO free farmers. This needs to be changed!”

“Organic together with the conventional food processors already face costs concerning the prevention of GMO contamination of their commodities of up to 12.6%[iii]. It is an unbearable situation that costs caused by those who place GMOs on the market are externalised to the sustainable food sectors”, adds Alexander Beck, Board member of IFOAM EU Group and coordinator of the German Association of Organic Food Processors.

“The EU Commission and members states need to tackle the question of liability: The GMO industry must finally be obligated to compensate organic and conventional food producers for the costs the presence of GMOs in our food chain cause. If we talk about socio-economic impacts, the entire food production chain as well as different regional structures must be considered; the costs for prevention of contamination and mitigation measures in case of contamination. This included seed production, cultivation, cleaning of commonly used machinery, transport and storage facilities; sampling, testing, segregation systems, compensation for damage and loss of reputation.”

More information:

IFOAM EU Group, phone + 32-2-280 12 23, Fax: +32-2-735 73 81,,


The IFOAM EU Group acknowledges the financial support of the European Community, Directorate-General for Environment. The sole responsibility lies with the IFOAM EU Group, and the Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information provided by IFOAM EU Group.


[i] If GMO are found in organic crop, the farmer loses the organic certificate and premium for this crop. The crop can often only be sold as feed consequently, also if it has been grown as food. Examples of cost calculations on farm basis can be found in: Testimonies of contamination (2009).

[ii] The IFOAM EU Group represents more than 300 member organisations of IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements) in the EU-27, the EU accession countries and EFTA. Member organisations include: consumer, farmer and processor associations; research, education and advisory organisations; certification bodies and commercial organic companies.

[iii] Christoph Then, Matthias Stolze (2009): Economic impacts of labelling thresholds for the adventitious presence of genetically engineered organisms in conventional and organic seeds and own calculations .