Food Law News - EU - 2007

FSA Local Authorities Letter (AFS/0017, ENF/E/07/037), 29 June 2007

GMOs Imports from Argentina : Unauthorised genetically modified organism (GMO) GA21 Maize

This letter serves to inform you about an unauthorised GMO event GA21 maize.

Products derived from GA21 are already authorised for use in food in the EU but as yet there is no equivalent authorisation for animal feed or for the import or processing of GA21 grain. Although an application covering these uses is under evaluation by EFSA it is unlikely that a decision on these additional uses of for GA21 maize will be reached before the end of 2007. This means that for the time being it is illegal to import GA21 maize grain or animal feed products derived from GA21 maize into the EU.

The European Commission (EC) has become aware that GA21 maize has been grown in Argentina for the first time in 2007. The harvest season in Argentina is from March to June. At this time there are no other known sources of GA21 maize.

The Argentine government has informed the EC that it has developed a scheme under which consignments of maize exported to the EU can be certified confirming the absence of GA21 maize. Sampling will be carried out in line with EU and international standards and analysed by government laboratories using a validated test method. The first certificates should be issued in the coming week; given the transit time of 20-25 days, these would cover shipments arriving in July.

Whilst this certification scheme is voluntary and cannot be made a condition of import into the EU, the Commission has asked Member States to bring it to the attention of their respective import authorities. Officials from the Food and Veterinary Office have recently audited control procedures in Argentina and it seems likely that their certificates would provide reliable evidence of the absence of the unauthorised material.

When undertaking surveillance of imported maize grain or animal feed products made from maize originating from Argentina , port health authorities and local authorities are requested to ask importers for sight of a properly completed and signed copy of the certificate attached at appendix 1. Should such a certificate not be available the relevant enforcement authority may wish to consider undertaking further official controls on the consignment, including sampling, using its powers under Regulation (EC) Official Feed and Food Control Regulations 2004 Article 18 (action in case of suspicion), to establish the cargo's conformity with EC legislation.

As potentially affected products could enter both the feed and food chain it is important that there is close liaison between authorities with official control responsibilities for imported feed and food at points of entry into the EU to ensure that maize grain and animal feed products containing maize from Argentina are properly monitored.

The Agency's Animal Feed Unit is taking the lead on this issue.

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