In Europe the GMO label has become the equivalent of a skull-and-crossbones for many retail sectors and shoppers, resulting in a situation where GM ingredients are rarely used in food meant for human consumption. Pro-GMO lobbyists hope that a new wave of “gene-edited” plants and animals will escape GMO labelling and enter the food supply unnoticed and unopposed. They have even dubbed the new techniques “new plant breeding techniques” (NPBTs) in an apparent attempt to avoid the unpopular “GM word”.

But these attempts look increasingly unlikely to succeed as legal expertsscientistsNGOs, and the US National Organic Standards Board have stated their view that gene editing gives rise to GMOs.

This view has now gained support from what is apparently the first food industry body to weigh in on the new GM techniques. VLOG, the German industry association representing food manufacturers and retailers that advocate food production without GMOs, has issued a hard-hitting position statement saying that the products of new gene editing techniques are GMOs and must be regulated as such.

Gene-edited products fall under EU GMO legislation

In its statement on gene editing, VLOG says unequivocally that these new techniques are “genetic modification” procedures. It says that gene-edited products fall under the EU’s GMO legislation and as such should be subjected to testing and risk assessment.

VLOG adds that “strict regulations for these new genetic engineering procedures are indispensable” because “Currently it cannot be assessed to what extent the individual procedures or products that originate from them can be considered safe”. 

VLOG also believes that the products of these new techniques must be labelled as GMOs, otherwise “transparency and free choice for consumers, and protection of GMO-free agriculture and food products cannot be ensured”.

VLOG further states, “Organisms exempt from regulation cannot be monitored and cannot, in an emergency, be withdrawn from the environment and the food chains. The abundance of genetically modified organisms to be expected can quickly create a situation in which an extensive loss of control by the authorities and in the food industry could occur while the precautionary principle would be abrogated.”

GMWatch welcomes VLOG’s position statement and encourages other industry bodies to respect scientific reality and EU legislation and follow suit in calling gene-edited products what they undoubtedly are: GMOs.

More about VLOG

VLOG awards licences for the “Ohne GenTechnik” (“produced without genetic engineering”) seal used on food products. It currently represents more than 450 members and licensees, primarily from Germany, which represent combined annual sales exceeding 182 billion Euros. More than 4,500 food products are promoted with the “Ohne GenTechnik” seal.

The non-GMO sector is continuing to grow in Germany, Europe’s largest economy. Alexander Hissting, general manager of VLOG, told the online magazine Feed Navigator, “In 2017, we’ll see a clear continuation of the development in the German dairy sector towards more non-GMO production. In 2016, we saw the big move by Lidl offering only ‘Ohne Gentechnik’ under its own brand Germany-wide and all other retailers trying to follow suit.”

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