In the context of GMOs, co-existence means using cropping systems with and without GMOs in parallel. For co-existence to be assured, the separation and the identity of the respective food and feed products must be maintained. The goal of co-existence is to allow all farmers to choose whether or not to grow GMOs and to let consumers exert market pressure by accepting or rejecting GM foods when making purchasing decisions.
Traceability is a requirement now imposed upon all types of food by EU regulation. Food producers and processors need to know where their goods come from and where they’re going. The added challenges posed by traceability for GM foods and feeds are that it is so difficult to tell the difference between GMOs and non-GM goods, and that there is such a low threshold for accidental mixing.
Growing authorised GMOs, doing research on co-existence, and deciding on co-existence regulations actually function well in parallel. Because safety concerns are already addressed at the approval level, it is not considered dangerous to learn about co-existence and traceability as we go. Regulations on co-existence have been in flux ever since GMOs entered the market. They adapt to reflect shifts in demands from citizens and the ever-increasing complexity of GMO dynamics worldwide. The latest legislation on GM plants in the EU, with a new, process oriented labelling basis, came into effect only in 2003. When these regulations were implemented, the science required to realise them lagged behind. Co-Extra is doing the research needed to secure a process-based labelling system and freedom of choice according to recently implemented GMO regulations.
The Co-Extra website is written by independent science journalists who are part of the Co-Extra website editorial board. The writers exercise journalistic freedom to best explain Co-Extra research projects to the general public. Statements on this website are not to be interpreted as statements of the EU or of any of its bodies.
Governments on six continents have called for labelling and freedom of choice for GM foods. Therefore there is a concerted worldwide effort to develop harmonised, cross-border policies for trade with GMOs. A good example of this is the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which is set to require all shipments of agricultural products to be accompanied by documentation regarding their GMO status by 2012. Co-Extra is conducting intensive research to determine planes for harmonisation with non-EU countries and to set up international conduits for exchanging new information on co-existence and traceability.
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