The Co-Extra Project

Since 2003, European legislation controls the introduction and production of genetically modified goods. Its aim is to guarantee freedom of choice for all stakeholders in the supply chain and to provide a basis for the traceability of a GMO at any time from farm to fork.

Flash animation: Co-existence and Traceability: How it works
Animation -- Co-existence and Traceability: How it works

The Co-Extra project supports these aims by addressing the co-existence and traceability of GM and non-GM products. It was initiated by the European Union to develop practical solutions for the sampling, tracing, labelling and documentation of GM content in food and feed. The Co-Extra project has demonstrated the clear possibility of the co-existence of GM and non-GM production chains in most cases.

Conducted by 52 partners in 18 countries, the Co-Extra project developed cost-effective and reliable tools for the co-existence and traceability of GM, conventional and organic crops. The design of such tools must consider gene flow management, costs and methods of segregating GM and non-GM products, GMO sampling and detection, and liability and compensation.

In support of co-existence in the field, the Co-Extra project developed a variety of biological methods that inhibit the spread of GM pollen to non-GM crops. In support of co-existence and traceability within the supply chain, the Co-Extra project investigated the most cost-effective means of segregating GM and non-GM products from farm to fork. The resulting data were integrated into the electronic Decision Support System (DSS) that is available to stakeholders who wish to determine the practical and economic aspects of co-existence and traceability.

Worldwide, the number of authorised GMOs is increasing rapidly but many of these GMOs remain unauthorised in the EU. In support of the proper product labelling as required by law, Co-Extra researchers created innovative techniques and guidelines towards the detection and identification of authorised and unauthorised GMOs. Such techniques include the new ‘Matrix approach’, which provides a list of GMOs that may be present in a sample.

In some cases, GMOs or GM pollen inadvertently may contaminate conventional or organic crops. To support legal clarity in such cases, the Co-Extra project also analysed and compared current tort laws, insurance requirements and both private and state-supported compensation funds throughout the EU.