EU food authorities pave way for meat and milk from GM animals

4 July 2012

European Union officials are paving the way to bring genetically modified (GM) animals to the European market.

European authorities have developed safety guidelines for the introduction of GM animals [1] - a precursor to approving such products for commercial sale.

But these steps to introduce GM fish, pigs or cows come despite unwillingness to sell them from major retailers, research by Friends of the Earth Europe shows [2], as well as strong consumer opposition to GMOs. [3]

Mute Schimpf, food campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe said: "The idea of eating genetically modified meat or milk turns people's stomachs. Leading European supermarkets know it would be bad for business to sell GM animals products and will not stock them. Not a single country allows GM animals for food production. So why is the European Commission starting a procedure to approve such products? It's preposterous."

Milk, meat and eggs for consumption from GM animals are not authorized in any country in the world. Where research on GM animals for food purposes has been done, tests have been largely unsuccessful and abandoned.

The new guidelines, commissioned by the European Commission from the EU food risk advisory body (EFSA) and published last month, pave the way for GM animals because they describe the safety checks that would be required before a GM animal could be authorised in Europe. Previously such guidelines did not exist which meant no biotech company could pursue an authorisation. The guidelines mean that biotech companies now have the possibility to ask for permission to develop GM animals in Europe.

Friends of the Earth Europe contacted leading European supermarket chains to assess their readiness to sell products from GM animals. The responses showed that major retailers have absolutely no plans to sell meat or other products from GM animals. [2]

Notes:

[1] Draft technical guidance from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) on how to assess the environmental risks of food derived from GM fish, cows and pigs, June 2012: http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/consultations/call/120621.htm

[2] Friends of the Earth Europe factsheet, July 2012, 'Something fishy: the facts on GM animals - The European Commission's rush to approve genetically modified animals'

[3] European consumers are highly concerned about GM animals - Eurobarometer 354, 2010 http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/factsheet/docs/reporten.pdf and Eurobarometer 238, 2008 http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/flash/fl_238_en.pdf