New EU regulation: 0.9 percent GMOs allowed in organic products

On Tuesday, EU agriculture ministers agreed on a new regulation for organic production and labelling. It bans the use of GMOs, yet allows 0.9 percent of accidental GMO admixing. If no conventional produce is available, food additives produced with GMOs may be used in organic foods.

The previous EU regulation for organic production was written in 1991 – years before GM crops appeared in commercial agriculture. Consequently, no rules for GMOs in organic products existed except for a general ban on their intentional use. The new regulation passed on Tuesday retains this ban, but sets a threshold for the accidental and adventitious presence of GM ingredients in organic products: 0.9 percent, which is the same limit as in conventional products.

While the European Commission called for a threshold of 0.9 percent for GMOs in conventional and organic produce, the European Parliament, as well as consumer and environmental organisations, lobbied for the much lower threshold of 0.1 percent.

The ministers of agriculture also set labelling rules. The EU logo has been made compulsory for organic foods, and may be combined with national or regional logos. To qualify for the EU label, at least 95 percent of the ingredients must be organic. Under the new regulation, even conventional products may state the use of organic ingredients in the list of ingredients.

Also new is the permission to use food additives produced with GMOs, if no conventional product is available. This decision has been criticised by organic associations.