On Sunday evening, representatives from the CDU/CSU and SPD parties adopted a compromise in the controversial question of goods labelled as “without gene technology”. The public initially was informed of the content of the agreement only in a fragmentary and contradictory manner. In the official press release of the Federal Government the criteria that such products must fulfil were not clearly identified.
Since then, the Ministry for Agriculture has submitted to the Parliament a proposal for resolution. Under the terms of this document, animal-derived foodstuffs such as milk, meat and eggs may be advertised as “without gene technology” when the feed used in their production contained no genetically modified plants such as GM soy or GM maize. However, feed additives such as amino acids, enzymes and vitamins are allowed that nonetheless were manufactured with the aid of genetically modified organisms.
These kind of additives are common in feed mixtures. In the explanatory statement released by the Ministry, it was remarked that such additives should be allowed to ensure a balanced animal nutrition. Furthermore, it was stated that such products of fermentation “are produced under the controlled conditions of closed systems in a manner that protects the environment and resources.”
In the case of goods intended for human consumption, the label “without gene technology” categorically excludes additives, enzymes or flavours that are produced by the use of GM micro-organisms. Exceptions are possible only for such additives and processing aids that are approved by the EU Eco-Regulation and for which no “gene-technology-free” alternatives are available. To date, however, no such additives exist that fulfil these requirements.
Environmental and consumers’ unions have welcomed the planned “without gene technology” labelling. According to the Federation of German Consumer Organisations, consumers receive thereby “finally the freedom of choice for or against the application of genetically modified feed”.
In contrast, criticism was expressed by representatives of the food and feed industry. Commentators from the BLL, the German umbrella organisation of food processors, described as “consumer fraud” a situation in which buyers are unable to be certain that goods offered as “without gene technology” actually have been produced entirely under exclusion of components generated with this technology.
The German Parliament will vote on the law within January.