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EU asks citizens to weigh in on GM and organic food policy

By Caroline Scott-Thomas, 18-Jan-2013

Related topics: Policy, Organics, GM food

The European Commission has called for public views on genetically modified (GM) foods in the European Union, as part of a survey examining attitudes to organic agriculture legislation.

The consultation , which is open until April 10, invites European citizens, organisations and public authorities to complete a questionnaire covering topics from organic farming methods and co-existence of organic and GM crops, to international trade arrangements and labelling rules.

The EC says that organic farming currently only accounts for about 5% of all farmland in the European Union, but says “the sector is driven by ever-increasing consumer demand.”

“In the current economic downturn, will consumers continue to turn towards a more sustainable lifestyle and higher consumption of organic products?” it asks.

It begins by asking consumers if and why they buy organic foods, including whether they buy organic foods specifically because they are ‘GMO-free’ according to the current definition.

The survey also explains that there is no need to mention GM material on a product label if the total amount accounts for less than 0.9% of the finished food. It asks whether consumers would tolerate higher prices if stricter limits were imposed for accidental presence of GMOs.

It also identifies co-existence of organic and GM crops as a key issue for the development of organic farming.

In addition, the questionnaire requests opinions on the harmonisation of organic regulations throughout the EU and their potential effect on small firms, and whether organic foods should be subject to stricter limits for pesticide residues than conventionally grown foods.

The survey is available on the EC’s Agriculture and Rural Development website here . It says that the survey will provide input to the Commission at an early stage in the policy making process, and that results will be made available on its website.