GMOs

Organic, protecting Europe's genetic diversity

Organic farming protects the collective genetic heritage by ensuring that no GMOs are used in the organic production process. It ensures the availability of enough GMO-free and organically compatible resources. The organic sector commits to meeting consumers’ highest expectations about the genetic resources it is using.

martin sommer
Martin Sommer
Policy Coordinator

Large corporations are increasingly developing and using novel organisms created through genetic engineering using techniques like transgenesis, but also new techniques like TALENs, zinc finder nuclease or CRISPR/Cas9. These techniques are complex and interfere with the genetic mark-up of the planet’s biodiversity. Their consequences remain poorly understood. Most GM-crops put on the market produce insecticide toxins, or are used in conjunction with synthetic herbicides they were made to “tolerate”. To protect the collective genetic heritage and biodiversity we must keep the control and release of varieties derived from genetic engineering transparent and regulated at EU level. Transparency, traceability and labelling are crucial to allow producers and consumers to choose GMO-free products.

Biotic & abiotic factors, climate change and the needs of agriculture and food production change. This is why there is an ongoing need to develop new cultivars for (organic) farmers so they can adapt. As organic movement, we respect our genetic heritage and planetary biodiversity, so we take a precautionary approach to the changes humanity makes to it. In the European Union, organic agriculture is GMO-free by definition, as the use of GMOs is prohibited in the organic production process, according to the current (Regulation 834/2007, Art. 4), and new organic regulation (Regulation 848/2018, Art. 5).


IFOAM Organics Europe…

  • Seeks to safeguard the integrity of genetic resources used in organic;
  • Addresses the realities of potential genetic contamination to provide organic producers with a market guarantee that meets consumer expectations;
  • Protects organic from GMO contamination by advocating for clear and thorough standards and regulations maintaining the high EU standards on safety assessments and environmental release;
  • Strengthens organic production by organising and supporting the organic movement’s efforts to develop practical strategies to remain GMO-free;
  • Facilitates the dialogue with the conventional GMO-free sector;
  • Created a GMO task force to strengthen advocacy work and build members’ capacity;
  • Started the ‘Keeping GMOs out of organic’ project to help protect the GMO-free production chain against contamination.

Thanks to our work and the work in the NGO coalitions that we are part of, no new GMOs were authorised for cultivation in the EU since 2015 and 17 national bans on cultivation are in place at national or regional level. Moreover, the European Court of Justice also ruled that new GMOs  fall under the scope of the GMO legislation.

Legal framework

Ongoing processes

The European Commission is currently conducting a study on the practical implications of the European Court of Justice’s ruling on new mutagenesis techniques. EU Member States requested this study and it is set for publication by 30 April 2021. IFOAM Organics Europe is participating in the stakeholder consultation to represent the interests of the organic sector.

Legislative background

In the European Union, the current (Regulation 834/2007, Art. 4), and new organic regulation (Regulation 848/2018, Art. 5) state that the use of GMOs is prohibited in organic agriculture. EU legislation extensively covers GMOs.

This legislation aims at protecting human and animal health and the environment. Doing so, it prescribes a harmonised risk assessment procedure at the EU level before any GMO can be placed on the market. It also ensures clear labelling of GMOs that are placed on the market to enable consumers and operators in the (organic) food chain to make an informed choice. Furthermore, the legislation prescribes traceability of all GMOs on the market, offering a legal guarantee for operators in the food chain that their products do not contain unwanted organisms.

On 25 July 2018, the European Court of Justice provided clarity on new mutagenesis techniques. In its ruling, the Court of Justice states that new mutagenesis techniques are GMOs and that EU Member States must regulate them as such.

Our position

The risk of contamination threatens the GMO-free food production chain, and the economic well-being of farmers and producers.  The organic movement stresses the importance of maintaining and properly implementing the current GMO legislation, including a risk assessment procedure, as well as traceability and labelling requirements.

For the organic sector, it is crucial to subject new techniques of genetic engineering to the same requirements as ‘old’ GMOs. This is essential to maintain the EU’s high standards protecting human health and the environment. Moreover, it gives the organic sector the possibility and capacity to remain GMO-free. To protect the income and livelihoods of organic farmers and processors, all contamination of non-GMO materials should be prevented by the GMO producer in line with the polluter pays principle.

Useful links

Compatibility of breeding techniques in organic systems

All techniques of genetic modification must be regulated. Give organic farming the tools to remain GMO-free. Consult this leaflet in any of the 24 official European languages.

Projects IFOAM Organics Europe is involved in

Short description

IFOAM Organics Europe started the ‘Keeping GMOs out of organic’ to help protect the GMO-free production chain against contamination. The project ensures an economic perspective for European sustainable and organic producers and encourages strategies and policies to mitigate the contamination risk.

The project work consists of two pillars:

  • Strengthen GMO-free organic production through supporting the organic movement’s development of practical strategies to remain GMO-free and by facilitating the dialogue with the conventional GMO-free sector.
  • Develop positions and coordinate advocacy work to maintain the ability of the organic sector to remain GMO-free.

Within the framework of the project, IFOAM Organics Europe developed a leaflet on why all techniques of genetic modification must be regulated. We invite you to browse the leaflet in any of its 24 languages to get an overview of new GMOs, their history, impact and how to proceed.

Documents

In the frame of the project we also released:

Financial supporters

Practical examples

IFOAM Organics Europe has published practical guidelines for farms as well as food and feed processors on how to avoid GMO contaminations. This guide provides examples on the strategies and practices of how the organic value chain avoids contamination and ensures the highest quality requirements that consumers expect from organic products.

Get involved

IFOAM Organics Europe’s members working on GMOs and new GMOs can apply to become part of the GMO task force. Contact martin.sommer@organicseurope.bio for more information.

They are making it possible

The work of IFOAM Organics Europe on this topic is co-financed by the LIFE programme of the European Union, under the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME). This page only reflects the views of the authors and its sole responsibility lies with IFOAM Organics Europe. The EASME is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information provided.

Cover image’s credits: Judit Feher, ÖMKiLIVESEED project.

 
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