EU Health Commissioner, Androulla Vassiliou, is reported to be preparing a legal proposal that would set a ceiling for the amount of unauthorised genetically modified (GM) material that could be tolerated in imported foods.

At present, EU law sets a tolerance threshold of 0.9 per cent for GM material in food and feed, above which a cargo must be labelled as being biotech. The problem for GM crop-growing countries is that EU law does not tolerate the accidental presence of unauthorised GM organisms (GMO) that have been approved elsewhere. This has recently led to cargoes of rice and grain arriving at EU ports being impounded if sampling shows the presence of unauthorised GM material. A recent study by food stakeholders suggests the EU’s lack of tolerance of GMOs, even if approved in the country of origin, has several negative effects for EU businesses including reduced income and employment and disruption for EU processing. The recent US GM rice incident is indicated to have cost the European rice milling industry in the region of between €52m and €111m.