At the request of the European Commission, the GMO panel at the Brussels-based European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) put together a detailed document to assist applicants in the preparation and presentation of applications for GM plants and derived food and feed.
"The subject of GMOs is one of great public interest and we believe it is important to involve stakeholders in the development of guidance for the risk assessment process," said EFSA's director of science Dr. Herman Koëter.
Noting the sensitivity of the subject, and quick to ensure that EFSA would not be flooded with unrelated comments, he added : "Given EFSA's mandate, our consultation will focus on the scientific assessment of the safety of GMOs and their possible environmental impact,".
The issue of genetically modified foods and derived ingredients has seen the biotech giants, such as US firm Monsanto, facing off against consumer groups and environmental campaigners keen to block the introduction of biotech-manipulated foods on the European plate.
Freshly established as the hub of food safety in Europe following a catalogue of food safety scares, the job of the Parliament funded body EFSA is to assess risk through a team of independent scientists and to deliver an opnion. Risk management still remains in the hands of the Commission.
At the end of 2003 EFSA released its first - and tightly controversial - GMO opinon. The panel gave the green light to Monsanto's herbicide-tolerant GM maize NK 603, declaring the Roundup ready maize 'as safe as conventional maize'. But under the current 1998-approved GM moratorium in Europe, likely to be reversed imminently because of Commission pressure, no new GM crops or foods have been authorised in the 15 nation bloc.
Comments on the guidance document issued by EFSA yesterday for GM plants and/or derived food and feed submitted within the framework of Regulation (EC) No. 1829/2003 on genetically modified food and feed or Directive 2001/18/EC on the deliberate release into the environment of GMOs must be made by 30 April.
Stakeholders can soon expect to see guidance documents on GM micro-organisms and substances such as GM derived additives and enzymes shortly with EFSA stating that they are currently being developed by the GMO panel.