Before any genetically modified organism or derived product can be placed on the EU market, it is required to pass an approval system in which its safety vis-à-vis humans, animals and the environment is thoroughly assessed.
At the request of the EU's executive arm, the European Commission, asked the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to put together a comprehensive guidance to applicants wishing to introduce GMOs or derived products to the EU market.
But for the moment a small number of giant biotech players - namely Monsanto and Syngenta - have come close to clearance of a GM product.
Facing the fury of anti-GM campaigners, in May this year the Commission pushed through approval of a GM sweetcorn, supplied by Swiss biotech firm Syngenta to enter the food chain. The first approval of a GM foodstuff since 1998 and marking the end of the de facto moratorium set up that year.
MON810, a biotech maize engineered by Monsanto to be resistant to the European corn borer, became the second approval, cleared within months of Syngenta's product.
But against the backdrop of a cynical GM-wary consumer, food makers in Europe are opting to skip GM ingredients in food formulations, conscious that such a move would be unlikely to lead to sales.
"Upholding its commitment to involve stakeholders in the risk assessment process, the guidance document has substantially benefited from comments received during a four-week period of public consultation as well as feedback received during a stakeholder consultation held in May 2004," said the EFSA panel in a statement today.
The document covers the full risk assessment of GM plants and derived food and feed although risk management of GMOs (traceability, labelling, co-existence) are 'outside the remit of the GMO Panel'.