First, the Commission has proposed completing the present labelling rules with a Commission Regulation laying down a de minimis threshold for the accidental content of genetically modified material.
Foods and food ingredients produced from GMOs have to be labelled according to Regulation (EC) No 258/97 (Novel Foods Regulation) and Regulation (EC) No 1139/98 (labelling of two particular GM soya and maize products). This means that they have to be labelled when they contain protein or DNA resulting from genetic modification.
The threshold aims at solving the problem faced by operators who have tried to avoid GMOs but who due to accidental contamination still find themselves with a low percentage of GM material in their products. It will thus offer legal certainty to those operators.
The proposed threshold applies only to material already authorised for human consumption in the European Union (EU), and may be applied subject to the following conditions:
This means that the proportion of GM material in a product composed of several ingredients will be much lower. For example, in the case of a processed product containing maize starch, the percentage of allowed GM material is not 1% of the product, but only 1% of the starch. Since starch usually represents only a fraction of the processed product it is contained in, the percentage of GM material in the processed product will be much lower than 1%.
This approach is expected to serve as a model for all similar novel foods.
The draft measure does not aim at laying down rules for the use of labelling claims of the type "GMO-free". To this end, the Commission is currently studying the contents of possible EU legislation in the area.
Foods containing Additives and flavourings produced from GMOs
The Commission has also put forward draft labelling rules for foods containing additives and flavourings produced from GMOs.
Additives and flavourings are excluded from the Novel Foods Regulation because their safety requirements are already laid down in specific legislation (Directives 89/107/EEC and 88/388/EEC for additives and flavourings, respectively). However, this had until now the undesired effect that foods containing additives and flavourings produced from GMOs were not subject to the labelling rules laid down by the Regulation.
The proposal is a draft Commission Regulation to ensure that foodstuffs that contain GMO-derived additives or flavourings are labelled in the same way as those which contain other genetically modified ingredients, i.e.:
The Commission is expected to adopt the measures around the end of the year.