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Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)

Jan 20, 2020

Genetically modified organisms (GMO) are cultivated worldwide. The genes of plants are modified to provide the plants with herbicide tolerances or genes for the production of their own insecticides. Most GMO are corn, soy or cotton.

In the EU, GMOs may only be cultivated or placed on the market as food if they are approved. Food containing GMO material not authorised in the EU is therefore not marketable in the EU.

According to Regulation (EC) 1829/2003, genetically modified material in food must be labelled. According to Article 12 (2) of Regulation (EC) 1829/2003, food containing authorised GMO must not be labelled if it does not exceed 0.9 % of the food and is adventitious or technically unavoidable.
GMO can only be detected from DNA in pollen of honey but the proportion of pollen in honey never exceeds 0.9 %. So honey is covered by this derogation. Therefore, honey, even if it contains authorised GMOs, does not have to be labelled as GMO food.

Therefore the focus for checking GMO in honey for the EU market is on non-authorised plants. If non-authorised GMOs are detected, the honey is not marketable in the EU regardless of the percentage.

Analysis of GMO in honey

At QSI the first step in the analysis of GMOs in honey is a Triple-Screening in 2x 50g honey which is sufficient for most origins because it covers all relevant GMOs for honey in these countries. Only honey from Argentina or Brazil requires Tetra-Screening due to the GMOs growing there. If the screening is positive, individual GMO events must be checked to rule out the presence of unauthorised GMOs. This is done according to our workflow in the shortest possible way, depending on the origin of the honey.

Not only GMOs can trigger a positive screening result. The cauliflower mosaic virus, which predominantly infects cruciferous plants and is not a GMO also leads to a positive result of the screening element 35S promoter. Thus, even in the case of positive screening, it is possible that the honey does not contain any GMOs.

If all not authorised GMOs which would fit the screening result have been excluded and an approved GMO or cauliflower mosaic virus, which fits the screening result, has been detected, a compliance with Regulation (EC) 1829/2003 and Regulation (EC) 1830/2003 can be issued and the tested honey is marketable in the EU.

In rare cases, no evidence of individual events can be provided following a positive screening. Due to the small amount of pollen, it may happen that the GMO content is just at the detection limit. Thus it can happen that the screening elements are detectable, but the individual events are below the detection limit. In such cases, we recommend the analysis in a second sample.

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions about the analysis or in case you have special requirements.

Phone: +49 (0)421 / 59 66 070
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