Regulation of GMOs in Europe's system of organic production
The European Union has zero tolerance for the inclusion of genetically modified organisms in organic production and in any imported organic product.
The EU legislative framework involves the interplay between different regulations and court rulings:
- Regulation (EC) 834/2007 provides that organic production must not contain GMOs
- Regulation (EC) No 1830/2003 makes compulsory the traceability and labelling of GMOs and the traceability of food and feed products produced from GMOs
- the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled on 25 July that crops created using gene-editing technologies such as CRISPR–Cas9 are regulated as GMOs and subject to the same high hurdles for developing GM crops for food (see the article from Nature)
Australian organic producers exporting into the EU must comply with these provisions, even if they are not required in Australia.
If Australian exporters cannot guarantee that their product is not contaminated with GMO (which they can't if Australia no longer traces certain GMOs) then the EU will likely prohibit their import.
The relevant EU provisions are below.
Council Regulation (EC) No 834/2007 of 28 June 2007 on organic production and labelling of organic products (website)
Article 4—Overall principles
Organic production shall be based on the following principles:
(a) the appropriate design and management of biological processes based on ecological systems using natural resources which are internal to the system by methods that:
(i) use living organisms and mechanical production methods;
(ii) practice land-related crop cultivation and livestock production or practice aquaculture which complies with the principle of sustainable exploitation of fisheries;
(iii) exclude the use of GMOs and products produced from or by GMOs with the exception of veterinary medicinal products;
(iv) are based on risk assessment, and the use of precautionary and preventive measures, when appropriate;
Article 9—Prohibition on the use of GMOs
1. GMOs and products produced from or by GMOs shall not be used as food, feed, processing aids, plant protection products, fertilisers, soil conditioners, seeds, vegetative propagating material, micro-organisms and animals in organic production.
2. For the purpose of the prohibition referred to in paragraph 1 concerning GMOs or products produced from GMOs for food and feed, operators may rely on the labels accompanying a product or any other accompanying document, affixed or provided pursuant to Directive 2001/18/EC, Regulation (EC) 1829/2003 of the European Parliament and the Council of 22 September 2003 on genetically modified food and feed (14) or Regulation (EC) 1830/2003 concerning the traceability and labelling of genetically modified organisms and the traceability of food and feed products produced from genetically modified organisms. Operators may assume that no GMOs or products produced from GMOs have been used in the manufacture of purchased food and feed products when the latter are not labelled, or accompanied by a document, pursuant to those Regulations, unless they have obtained other information indicating that labelling of the products in question is not in conformity with those Regulations.
3. For the purpose of the prohibition referred to in paragraph 1, with regard to products not being food or feed, or products produced by GMOs, operators using such non-organic products purchased from third parties shall require the vendor to confirm that the products supplied have not been produced from or by GMOs.
4. The Commission shall decide on measures implementing the prohibition on the use of GMOs and products produced from or by GMOs in accordance with the procedure referred to in Article 37(2).
(t) the definition of ‘Genetically modified organism (GMO)’ is that given in Directive 2001/18/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 March 2001 on the deliberate release into the environment of genetically modified organisms and repealing Council Directive 90/220/EEC (9) and which is not obtained through the techniques of genetic modifications listed in Annex I.B of that Directive;
(u) ‘produced from GMOs’ means derived in whole or in part from GMOs but not containing or consisting of GMOs;
(v) ‘produced by GMOs’ means derived by using a GMO as the last living organism in the production process, but not containing or consisting of GMOs nor produced from GMOs;
Regulation (EC) No 1830/2003 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 September 2003 concerning the traceability and labelling of genetically modified organisms and the traceability of food and feed products produced from genetically modified organisms (website)
Article 4—Traceability and labelling requirements for products consisting of or containing GMOs
1. At the first stage of the placing on the market of a product consisting of or containing GMOs, including bulk quantities, operators shall ensure that the following information is transmitted in writing to the operator receiving the product:
(a) that it contains or consists of GMOs;
(b) the unique identifier(s) assigned to those GMOs in accordance with Article 8.
2. At all subsequent stages of the placing on the market of products referred to in paragraph 1, operators shall ensure that the information received in accordance with paragraph 1 is transmitted in writing to the operators receiving the products.
6. For products consisting of or containing GMOs, operators shall ensure that:
(a) for pre-packaged products consisting of, or containing GMOs, the words ‘This product contains genetically modified organisms’ or ‘This product contains genetically modified [name of organism(s)]’ appear on a label;
(b) for non-pre-packaged products offered to the final consumer the words ‘This product contains genetically modified organisms’ or ‘This product contains genetically modified [name of organism(s)]’ shall appear on, or in connection with, the display of the product.