FAO’s Codex Alimentarius Wrestling with GMO Food Controversy

FAO’s Codex Alimentarius Wrestling with GMO Food Controversy

Earlier this month marked the first meetings of a special task force of the joint Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization Codex Alimentarius Commission convened “to develop standards, guidelines, or other principles, where appropriate,” for GMO-derived foods. The task force, which met in Japan, is working toward a Codex agreement that will supplement the Cartagena Protocol, the recently signed U.N. Protocol on Biosafety, which excludes, in principal, the regulation of living modified organisms (LMOs) intended for food, feed or food processing.

The Cartagena Protocol calls for LMOs intended for food, feed or processing to be identified when they are traded across international borders. However, during the negotiations that led up to the Protocol, delegates recognized that further consideration would have to be given to developing standards for identification, handling, packaging and transporting biotech products in consultation with other international bodies. While it is not the job of the task force to evaluate individual products created by biotechnology, it will guide the work on assessing the risks and benefits of biotech products.

In assessing possible risks presented by various biotech foods, the task force will consider the concept of “substantial equivalence,” established by Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and currently considered to be the most practical approach to determining food safety. It embodies the idea that “existing organisms used as food, or as a source of a food, can be used as the basis for comparison when assessing the safety of human consumption of a food or food component that has been modified or is new.” The task force reportedly will look at different ways of developing and applying the concept of substantial equivalence and reviewing other methods of science-based risk assessment. Many believe that the application of substantial equivalence will result in more favorable treatment of GMO crops.

COPYRIGHT 2000 Informa Economics, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning