Control of GMOs well organised here, say EU auditors

No GMO non-compliances found in at-risk imports from non-EU countries.

A well-organised system of official controls of GMOs is implemented in Ireland, said the EU Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety officials who carried out an inspection here in January — the first such audit in Ireland.

They audited official controls for food, feed and seed containing, consisting of, or produced from genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

They found that import controls of processed food are appropriate, however, some shortcomings were identified regarding sampling.

They pointed to the lack of laboratory capacity, which, in practice, limits the number of samples that can be analysed, and the scope of the analysis.

“These pose a risk that authorities are not aware of the presence of certain genetically modified events in food and feed and might lead to non-compliant food and feed being marketed,” reported the audit team.

There is no commercial cultivation of GM crops in Ireland.

However, there is currently a Teagasc field trial, with a GM blight tolerant potato. The proposed period of deliberate release was from 2012 to 2016 with the trial completed in 2015.

Post-trial monitoring for volunteer potatoes will continue until 2020.

Environmental Protection Agency inspectors told the EU auditors that this potato field trial was carried out in accordance with the consent conditions and no non-compliances were observed.

The Department of Agriculture told the auditors that no traces of GMO in crop seed were detected so far in commercial seed, and only in one case in seed for trials. 

In a consignment of soya bean imported for commercial trialling purposes, traces of GM material were identified in 2015.

This seed was returned to the supplier in another member state.

No genetically modified food non-compliances have been found, in the 46 food samples taken in 2013, 47 in 2014, and 50 in 2015 (including 32, 31 and 28 from retail, of which four each year came from manufacturers).

The Department informed the audit team that controls on GMOs in animal feed materials are carried out at the point of import of “at risk” material (soya bean, maize, oilseed rape and sugar beet pulp from North and South America).

All consignments from non-EU countries where GMO crop production is significant, and which are declared as “non-GM” are considered “at-risk” and are sampled, although only some of these samples are analysed.

In 2014, seven samples of feed were analysed for GMO and 11 samples in 2015; no non-compliances were identified.

Mainly due to budget constraints, feed samples are not analysed for the presence of GM material for which an authorisation procedure is pending or the authorisation has expired. (Because of this, there is a potential risk that non-compliant feed is marketed, said the EU auditors).

The Department of Agriculture stated that a feed and seed GM laboratory is planned to be put in place in the near future, and more testing — including for low-level presence — is foreseen at this new laboratory.

The EU auditors said the lack of laboratory capacity and limited analytical scope at the Public Analyst’s Laboratory in Cork posed a risk that some GM “events” in food are not detected, and shortcomings in analytical procedures for testing of rice products imported from China might lead to unidentified GM rice being imported and placed on the market.

However, lab shortcomings were mitigated by the participation of the GMO laboratory in proficiency tests and having good records on internal and external audits.


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