Brussels, 4 December 2002
- What are the duties of the Network?
The main duties of ENGL are to look at the different GMOs put on the market, and to ensure that the control laboratories can trace GMOs throughout the food chain.
The ENGL will primarily have to develop and validate methods for detecting and quantifying GMOs in food and feed. Once a method has been optimised, ENGL will set up internal inter-laboratory tests to check if the methods are suitable for control purposes and if so, labs will use them in their control work.
Biotechnology industries will fully collaborate with ENGL on a voluntary basis. Industry will provide details on DNA sequences needed to detect their GM material, enabling the development of harmonised methods. Co-operation with industry is a key component of the network's activities.
The GMO laboratory of the JRC, based in Ispra (Italy), will co-ordinate ENGL's activities It will act as the EU reference laboratory for GMO food and feed legislation. It will test and validate the methods of detection and identification, proposed by those submitting applications for new GMO foods or feed. The laboratory will be responsible for:
- receiving, preparing, storing, maintaining and distributing appropriate positive and negative control samples for national reference laboratories;
- testing and validating detection methods, including sampling and identification of the transformation event and, where applicable, detecting and identifying the transformation event in the food or feed;
- evaluating the data supplied by the applicant for authorising the sale of food or feed in order to test and validate the method for sampling and detection;
- submitting full evaluation reports to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
- Is ENGL developing a EU protocol for GMO detection?
- How many methods has the network provided?
- What further outcome can be expected in one year from now?
- Produce reference materials for various marketed GMOs.
- Provide the best approaches for taking samples from large bulks of seeds, grain or food. The Commission will present a software developed to assist control authorities in calculating the amount and the size of the samples that are necessary for adequate analysis.
- Store all molecular information on GMOs in databases and design bioinformatics tools to precisely analyse all the information collected to develop even better methods for detection and quantification.
- Provide proposals for efficient monitoring of GMOs that are commercially grown in the EU. This is a technical requirement of the recently approved Directive on the deliberate release and marketing of GMOs.
- Train laboratory personnel to become acquainted with the most sophisticated techniques of DNA and protein work.
- What is the impact of latest development in EU GMO-related legislation?
A strong regulatory framework must go hand in hand with a good and transparent control mechanism that satisfies the expectations of the consumer. The ENGL will certainly help the introduction of a better control system and will benefit consumers. In addition, it will increase EU credibility with trade partners and it will play an important role in pan-European harmonisation.
- What would happen if there were no ENGL GMO tests?
Up until now, GMO testing has mostly been carried out in EU countries and in Switzerland. Now all of these GMO laboratories have joined forces, working together within the ENGL network. The network is composed of official control laboratories, appointed by national governments, and is chaired by the JRC, a neutral Commission service. This ensures high quality standards. This network is well respected: for example, the biotechnology industry sees ENGL as a reference point for high quality scientific work.
It is anticipated that ENGL will finalise an agreement with major biotechnology companies in the very near future. This foresees biotech companies voluntarily providing ENGL with methods for detecting GMOs to comply with regulatory measures, as well as providing the necessary positive and negative control samples. The role of ENGL will be to validate these methods and ensure that they become an international reference. Once such an agreement is finalised, ENGL will become an important body for GMO testing world-wide.
- What about the resources involved? Can we predict the amount of work that lies ahead?
- Will this initiative have an impact on our relations with third countries, in particular with the US, as far as GMOs are concerned?
In addition, third countries are aware of EU legal requirements and of the analytical capacities of EU laboratories. They know the EU is well organised and follow ENGL activities with interest. For example, the most recent training course for GMO detection held at the JRC saw a US scientist participate for the first time in.
The Starlink case outlines the importance of creating ENGL-like structures. Starlink is a maize variety, that was approved in the US for feed but not for human consumption because some tests on allergenicity were missing. When Starlink was found in taco chips in America, all Starlink maize had to be removed from the market and the US proposed measures to prevent Starlink from being shipped overseas. The JRC and European GMO labs stopped this from happening in the EU. This has clearly illustrated the need for appropriate test and sampling methods.
DN: MEMO/02/9 Date: 04/12/2002
DN: MEMO/02/9 Date: 04/12/2002