In January 2013 the European Commission launched a public consultation on the future of organic agriculture. Artisan Food Law raised the hope that questions around the presence of GMOs in organic food “… do not become a precursor to proposals that would permit higher levels of contamination or, worse still, the deliberate inclusion of GM ingredients in organic products.” The report on the results of the consultation was published on 19 September and sets out clearly that the people of Europe are against GMOs.
The Commission received almost 45,000 responses, 96% came from ordinary EU citizens. The top two reasons why people buy organic, cited by over 80% of respondents in each case, are:
Concern about the environment.
The integrity of organic products, specifically the absence of GMOs and pesticide residues.
Consumer trust in organic products together with a demand for stricter rules were among the main elements arising out of the report and a large majority (78%) indicated a willingness to pay more, 10 to 25% more, for organic products.
The report highlights a strong demand for harmonised rules across the EU with 74 % of respondents calling for the organic standard to be strengthened.
On the issue of the presence of GMOs a huge majority, over 90% of respondents, stated that ‘organic’, by definition, means GMO-free and is a critical reason for purchasing. In the free comments and suggestions section of the survey, not in response to any particular question, the report summarised the contributions made:
Citizens in great majority were against GMOs in the European Union and demanded complete prohibition of GMOs. In detail, many contributions from citizens claimed that GMOs should be banned in the European Union and emphasised that GMOs are absolutely incompatible with its principles, criteria and objectives of organic farming. There also appeared opinions that import and use of GMO feedstuffs to European Union should be completely prohibited.1
There is no requirement to mention the possible presence of GMOs on the label of any food product where GMOs are likely to account for less than 0.9% of the product content. Some 48% of respondents were unaware of this fact and 56% were prepared to pay more for a lower GMO labelling limit.
The results of the consultation will feed the ongoing review of the political and legal framework for organic agriculture in Europe, with an overall strategy to be put forward in early 2014. The expectation must be that such an overwhelming statement of public opinion on key issues concerning organic food will be taken on board and clearly reflected in future policy and measures on organic production. The wider opposition reflected in the survey results to GMOs in both food and feed should also be seen as the clearest indication that the people of Europe simply do not want GMOs.
1 European Commission, Report on the Results of the Public Consultation on the Review of the EU Policy on Organic Agriculture Conducted by the Directorate General for Agriculture and Rural Development (15 January – 10 April 2013), 19 September 2013, p45