Processor concern over German biotech ruling

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Meat Livestock World trade organization Usda

Recent amendments to Germany's biotech laws will allow the
country's food processors to make use of a "without biotech" label
on their products, despite some concerns that such claims are
misleading, says a new report.

The new voluntary measures, passed by both chambers of the German Government last month, outline new policies on defining what can constitute non-Genetically Modified (GM) crops, according to the US Department of agriculture (USDA). However, there is concern amongst some industry players over the labels use on products made from meats, eggs or milk, which may have come from animals that have been fed GM at some point in their lives, the USDA said. Livestock concerns ​ Criticism of the scheme, which according to the report also allows for livestock products to be labelled as being "without biotech", has come from both manufacturers and farmers. The bill's critics have argued that using such a definition would give the impression that an animal had not had any contact with GM crops or feed, during its lifecycle. Such an assumption might not be entirely true however, with the law allowing use of the designation even on animals that were not fed with biotech before a set period prior to slaughter, the USDA said. Under the ruling, any livestock to be used in a "without biotech" product must not have been fed on any GM product before a set period of time, depending on the meat. These limits are:

  • 12 months for horses and cattle.

  • Six months for small ruminants.

  • Four months for hogs.

  • Three months for milk producing animals.

  • Ten weeks for poultry.

  • Six weeks for egg-laying poultry.

Legislation requirements ​According to the report, the labelling scheme will require any crop used in products claiming to be "without biotech" to meet the following criteria.

  • To be isolated by at least 150 metres from biotech corn for conventional corn products, and 300 metres in the case of organic goods.

  • The owners of neighbouring farms within 300 metres of any biotech corn field must also be notified.

As the scheme is voluntary, the German authorities have decided not to report the labelling measure to the World Trade organisation (WTO). Government experts have also said the label should not be classified as a trade impediment, according to the report. The European Commission has nonetheless already been notified of the legislation, and the labelling system could be implemented by May. Processors interest ​ The USDA said that retailers in the country were already working on a quality management system to ensure the labelling system is not abused, and that a major poultry processors had already expressed interest to make use of the scheme. Organic food groups are also expected to make use of the labels, the report said.

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