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In future, the ban on genetic engineering in the organic production of agricultural products is to be more effectively monitored

15/2002, 13.06.2002

The Federal Institute for Health Protection of Consumers and Veterinary Medicine (BgVV) and the Gesellschaft für Ressourcenschutz (Company for the Protection of Resources - GfRS) launch new research project

A legal provision is only ever as good as effective monitoring of compliance with it. This was impressively documented by the most recent findings on the banned plant protection product, nitrofen. These same findings also revealed that the best documentation system alone cannot guarantee effective monitoring. The documentation must be properly supplemented by comprehensive information and sound analytics. A joint research project just launched by BgVV and GfRS aims to examine "effective monitoring". The project focuses on the "practicability of the monitoring procedure for the ban on genetic engineering in the organic production of agricultural products". The goal is to examine and improve the current monitoring and certification system in order to guarantee that organic farm produce really has been manufactured without the use of genetic engineering.

Both the EC Regulation on Organic Production of Agricultural Products and the national guidelines for organic farming associations ban the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and any products manufactured with the help of GMOs. Compliance with this ban must be guaranteed by the agricultural producers, processors and importers of organic products. At present, the current monitoring procedure is largely based on mutual assurances (certificates) between manufacturers and processors aiming to ensure absolute traceability. This type of control imposes stiff demands on the monitoring and certification bodies particularly when starting materials are imported from abroad. This justifies taking a critical look at the monitoring procedure in Germany and that is the very intention of the joint GfRS and BgVV research project.

It is difficult to trace vitamins, enzymes and acid preservatives manufactured from genetically modified micro-organisms because in Germany there is still no procedure capable of already detecting genetic information (DNA) in the raw material from the original cultures of the micro-organisms. A corresponding procedure for the detection of "DNA traces" is to be developed in this project and tested in practice.

The official inspection authorities and monitoring bodies for the organic production of agricultural products in Germany are the actual target group of the research project. The producers of organic products will also benefit from the results as a consequence of the greater transparency in the monitoring procedures. Last but not least, the project wishes to contribute, by means of effective monitoring, to re-establishing consumer confidence which has frequently been abused in the past.

The project is part of the Federal Programme "Organic Production of Agricultural Products" which was instigated by the Federal Ministry for Consumer Protection, Nutrition and Agriculture (BMVEL). The first results from the research project are expected at the beginning of 2003.

Contact at GfRS:
Dr. Ludger Klempt
Prinzenstr. 4, D-37073 Göttingen
Tel. 0551-58657, Fax: 0551-58774

Contact at BgVV:
Bärbel Jansen
Thielallee 88-92, D-14195 Berlin
Tel. 030-8412-3686; Fax: 030-8412-3635


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