www.czu.cz ; www.raupp.info
Brussels addresses the issue of consumer cynicism and fear of agricultural
biotechnology in European citizens, setting up a thematic network on the
safety risk assessment of genetically modified food crops, the Entransfood
project, in order to stimulate the debate, January 2005.
A reflection of consumer?s poor regard for GM foodstuffs, in total Europe
has planted about 58,000 hectares of GM maize in Spain, lagging far behind
the US, Canada and Argentina that have planted millions of hectares of GM
Funded under the Fifth Framework Programme (FP5), Entransfood sought to
identify prerequisites for introducing agricultural biotechnology products
in a way that is largely acceptable to European society.
?It is important to explicitly address public concerns and to develop new
methods for stakeholders' involvement and public consultation," states the
project consortium, consisting of 65 partners from 13 different European
countries, including representatives from academia, regulatory agencies,
food manufacturers, retailers and consumer groups.
According to CORDIS, the project has already evaluated issues of the safety
of GM crop derived foods and paid attention to issues like detection and
traceability and public attitude towards GM food crops.
?Risk assessment of GM foods has focused on adverse health effects for
humans and the environment, but public concern is much broader, focusing not
only on risks, but also on who benefits, what are the needs and how does it
contribute to a sustainable agriculture,? adds the consortia.
CORDIS reports that the project found existing test methods for safety
assessment of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) ?are efficient and
ensure that GM foods that have passed the test are as safe and nutritious as
The EU-funded project has recommended however, that in the future: 'based on
our improved understanding of molecular biology, toxicology and nutrition,
further improvement of test methods may be considered that will render the
safety assessment of foods even more effective and informative.'
In addition, the group proposed the development of novel methods to predict
the allergenicity of food components.
The project noted that process-based labelling of all foods containing GM
crops is a necessity in order to dispel the fears of EU citizens, but
recognised that difficulties are unavoidable in implementing the EU's
They quote the example that it will be a challenge to achieve international
agreement on standards for the labelling and traceability of foods
originating from or containing GM crops across countries and even
On the subject of detection of ?unintended effects and gene transfer,?
CORDIS writes that Entransfood emphasised there is no indication that
?unintended effects are more likely to occur in GM foods or that there is
any inherent risk in the transfer of DNA between organisms, since DNA is not
It did, however, call for further development and validation of profiling
methods before they are used in routine risk assessment. The project also
recommends that the use of bacterial DNA in elaborating GM plants should be
kept to a minimum in order to reduce the risk of gene transfer to the
microbial population in the gut.
Finally, the EU group recommended the creation of an evaluation and
discussion platform combining a range of diverse perspectives on new food
technology to formalise public engagement and consultation in the GM debate.
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