Commission's guidelines on co-existence of GM with conventional and organic farming (link)

July 30, 2003

Brussels, 29 July 2003

Commission Recommendation of 23 July 2003 on guidelines for the development of national strategies and best practices to ensure the coexistence of genetically modified crops with conventional and organic farming (notified under document number C(2003) 2624) (OJ L189/36 29.7.2003). Full text [NB link expires 45 days from publication date]


1.1. The concept of coexistence

The cultivation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the EU is likely to have implications for the organisation of agricultural production. On the one hand, the possibility of the adventitious (unintended) presence of genetically modified (GM) crops in non-GM crops, and vice versa, raises the question as to how producer choice for the different production types can be ensured. In principle, farmers should be able to cultivate the types of agricultural crops they choose, be it GM crops, conventional or organic crops. None of these forms of agriculture should be excluded in the EU.

On the other hand, the issue is also linked to consumer choice. To provide European consumers with a real choice between GM food and non-GM food, there should not only be a traceability and labelling system that functions properly, but also an agricultural sector that can provide the different types of goods. The ability of the food industry to deliver a high degree of consumer choice goes hand in hand with the ability of the agricultural sector to maintain different production systems.

Coexistence refers to the ability of farmers to make a practical choice between conventional, organic and GMcrop production, in compliance with the legal obligations for labelling and/or purity standards.

The adventitious presence of GMOs above the tolerance threshold set out in Community legislation triggers the need for a crop that was intended to be a non-GMO crop, to be labelled as containing GMOs. This could cause a loss of income, due to a lower market price of the crop or difficulties in selling it. Moreover, additional costs might incur to farmers if they have to adopt monitoring systems and measures to minimise the admixture of GM and non-GM crops. Coexistence is, therefore, concerned with the potential economic impact of the admixture of GM and non-GM crops, the identification of workable management measures to minimise admixture and the cost of these measures.

The coexistence of different production types is not a new issue in agriculture. Seed producers, for example, have a great deal of experience of implementing farm management practices to ensure seed purity standards.

Other examples of segregated agricultural production lines include yellow dent field maize for animal feed, which successfully coexists in European agriculture with several types of 'speciality maize' grown for human consumption, and waxy maize grown for the starch industry...

Official Journal of the EC, L189/36 29.7.2003

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