Genetic Modification (GM) and Biotechnology

Policy Position

FDF believes that modern technologies, including genetic modification (GM), offer considerable potential to improve the quality and quantity of the food supply and could contribute to sustainability by helping to produce more food using fewer resources and with less impact on the environment. FDF recognises that the impact of this technology must be objectively assessed through scientific investigation and that robust controls are necessary to protect the consumer and the environment. Consumer understanding through education and information are fundamental to public acceptance of GM in food production.

FDF recognises that some consumers may wish, for whatever reason, to choose products which do not contain GM-derived ingredients, and UK food and drink manufacturers will continue to provide choice.

We also believe that serious consideration should be given to reopening a free and unbiased debate about the environmental, safety and consumer aspects of GM in food and agricultural production.

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Background

FDF recognised in the early 1990s that developments in agricultural biotechnology and food science were likely to impact on food production. A close collaboration developed with academic and research organisations and other sectors in the food chain (including farming, retail, regulators and consumer representatives) to research all aspects of GM, from modification for agricultural benefit through to pharmaceutical applications, environmental and ethical issues, legal and intellectual property issues, and consumer attitudes and perceptions. One outcome of this intensive dialogue was our foodfuture programme, launched in 1995.

At the same time the regulatory framework was evolving. In 1997 the use of GM in food was harmonised in European law under EC Regulation 258/97 on novel foods and novel food ingredients. Two later regulations subsequently replaced the GM part of the Novel Foods Regulation: EC Regulation 1829/2003 on GM food and feed; and EC Regulation 1830/2003 on traceability and labelling of GMOs and traceability of food.

These Regulations did not have the effect anticipated by the Regulators and consequently have created difficulties in application. The speed of approvals of GMOs in the EU continues to lag behind that in other parts of the world, especially North and South America, resulting in supply chain problems if GM material not yet authorised in the EU is detected in commodity consignments, even in very small amounts. The European Commission has recently reviewed the GM authorisation process and in April 2015 proposed legislative changes in this area which is currently under discussion.

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Last reviewed: 22 Jul 2015