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UK Laws and GM Foods

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 31 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
Uk Laws Gm Foods Rules Health And Safety

The United Kingdom (UK) has relatively strict laws on genetically modified (GM) foods in comparison with many other countries in the world. These kinds of foods and similar novel food products may only be marketed and produced after being approved for health and safety through a strict assessment of the food's safety and uses for consumption.

Evaluation Of GM Foods In The UK

Any GM food to be marketed in the UK has to be carefully evaluated for health and safety as well as authorised in accordance with the Regulation 1829/2003, which governs GM foods and GM feed. The document was approved for use in 2004 and it outlines the procedures for GM foods in the UK. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) assesses food safety and it follows the EFSA's protocol for UK laws and assessing GM foods.

Reviewing Applications For GM Food Approval

Every single application that is received has to be thoroughly reviewed on an individual basis according to UK laws and rules. Any possible toxicity or effects relating to nutrition or allergies must be weighed before the product can be approved. A GM food can only be allowed for production and marketing if the application shows that it is not going to trigger any health concerns or be less nutritionally complete than a conventional crop of the same kind.

Liaising With Other Authorities

As part of the process of approving a GM food, the EFSA might need to speak to other authorities that play a role in the rules around food safety in Europe. The UK's foremost authority on food safety is the Food Standards Agency (FSA). The FSA provides evidence-based advice on GM foods – primarily from the Independent Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP) whenever the FSA sees it relevant for examining a GM food.

Other Issues In The UK Approval Of GM Foods

If the GM food in question involves cultivating a GM crop for feed, human food consumption or importing any GM plants and seeds, the EFSA will then converse with national agencies who have designation under Directive 2001/18/EC. In turn, any GM products that might knowingly be released in the environment can be carefully investigated. In the UK, a key organisation in this aspect is the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

Making The Final Decision About GM Foods

The EFSA will publish its own decision on an application before the GM food is fully authorised. The aim of this kind of publication is to allow the public an opportunity to make comments on the GM food in question and bring any issues to light under UK laws. However, the ultimate decision on whether the GM food is approved is under the responsibility of Member States. The Member States are able to vote on a GM food.

While GM foods continue to be a controversial subject, the UK and European Laws are quite clear on how a GM product must receive a detailed assessment and analysis prior to approval for animal feed or human consumption. The aim is to safeguard public health while encouraging new crops and products that may prove beneficial to the public.

Still, those against GM foods believe that the unintended effects of such crops simply can't be measured and understood prior to approval, which would thus render any regulatory process – no matter how stringent – useless. For now though, the current regulations do appear to be the best ones available given the controversial circumstances.

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