Author: Svilena Velcheva
Published On: 22/10/2019

Imports of rapeseed and soybeans from US and Canada should be checked to verified that no new GMOs that have been produced contain elements not authorized in the EU and Bulgaria. Ten civic organizations demanded that in a letter to the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Forestry Dessislava Taneva. The necessary control is the responsibility of the Bulgarian Food Safety Agency (BFSA), which is under the umbrella of the Ministry of Agriculture.

Imports of GMO products obtained with genome editing techniques are not controlled by a number of EU Member States, including the Bulgarian government. This has been stated by representatives of the non-governmental organizations.

A meeting of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO) will take place on 24 October. It will discuss the proposal of the Finnish Presidency of the EU Council for the study of new GMOs. If adopted, this could halt the implementation of the decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union in July. According to him, all GMOs, old and new, should be subject to risk assessment, authorization, traceability and labeling. It is also the only way to guarantee the choice of livestock farmers, food and feed producers, traders and consumers full traceability and transparency, civic activists say.

In April, a number of national public authorities stated that “they are not in a position to fulfill all their control obligations and therefore cannot in any event be responsible for implementation deficiencies.” The lack of control in Bulgaria was confirmed by a letter from the Bulgarian Food Safety Agency to the Ecological Association “For Earth”. It shows that they are not able to detect products produced by genome editing and therefore cannot control the implementation of the Bulgarian and European legislation in the field.

NGO experts point out that well-known products that are already on the market can be found. These are ODM-produced Cibus SU Canola rape and Calyxt high-oleic soybean produced by TALENs. Cibus rape is grown in the US and Canada, while Calyxt soybeans are grown in the US only. These products are detectable if “prior knowledge of the changed genome sequence, validated detection method… and certified reference materials are available” according to an EU report of 26 March 2019.

Methods for detecting unknown genome-editing products may be based on the “scars” or “indirect damage” that the genetic engineering process causes, new research suggests.

Even if there are no technical means available for detecting products, regulation can “be based on a system of declarations, tracking, etc.”, according to German government officials and DowDupont. They conclude that “the detectability of GM products that can reach the market does not differ significantly from that of GMOs.

Translator: Valentina Vagge