Europe is looking more closely at genetically modified foods and ingredients. Any day now, a new directive is expected to provide guidance for the entire European community.
In early July, the European Commission is expected to release a draft proposal for a reformed regulation of New Genomic Techniques (NGTs) “that could improve food security, nutrition and environmental sustainability,” according to a report from European Food Information Council.
While we call them BE for bioengineered or GMOs for genetically modified organisms, Europe seems to favor NGTs.
“The latest consolidated version of Regulation (EC) No 1829/2003 allows the presence of GMOs in the EU as long as they are authorized,” says The Acheson Group, an American food safety consultancy. “The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has a GMO review board that approves/authorizes GMOs, but individual countries can ban the use of GMOs. A quick search shows that France, Germany, Austria, Greece, Hungary, Netherlands, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Bulgaria, Denmark, Malta, Slovenia, Italy, and Croatia all have bans in place.”
According to the 2022 Special Eurobarometer on Food Safety in the EU, published by EFSA, citizens’ concern about genetically modified ingredients in food or drinks varies among EU countries. Concern is the highest in Greece (47%), Austria (41%) and Bulgaria and Lithuania (both 40%). Conversely, those in Sweden (8%), Finland (11%) and Denmark (12%) are the least likely to be concerned.
Interestingly, Sweden, with the lowest level of concern, also is the only country where more than half of the respondents (55%) have even heard about NGTs, followed by Slovenia (46%) and Luxembourg (42%). Italy and Romania (both 20%) and Lithuania (21%) are the countries where the populace was least aware of them.
NGTs are indicated as a main source of concern by 14% in Austria and 10% in Hungary
In 2022, EFSA re-evaluated its previous scientific opinions and concluded there are no new risks in cisgenic and intragenic plants obtained with NGTs, as compared with those already considered for plants obtained with conventional breeding.