Genetically modified crops - As a result of the increased production of genetically modified crops worldwide, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) warned in a ground-breaking survey that an increasing number of incidents of low levels of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are being reported in traded food and feed.
FAO in a statement on Friday, stated that the incidents had led to trade disruptions between countries with shipments of grain, cereal and other crops being blocked by importing countries and destroyed or returned to the country of origin.
It explained that with no international agreement, defining or quantifying low levels interpretation varied from country to country.
'In some countries, it is interpreted as any level at which detection is possible, meaning very low or trace levels, while in other countries case-by-case decisions are taken on what level is acceptable.'
The FAO said these variable standards were why some importing countries were legally obligated to reject certain shipments that were perfectly legal in the exporting country.
The statement noted that FAO surveyed a total of 75 States on questions on low levels of GM crops in international food and animal feed trade.
It disclosed that respondents reported 198 such incidents between 2002 and 2012, with a steep acceleration after 2009.
It quoted Ms. Renata Clarke, FAO Senior Food Safety Officer in charge of the survey, as saying the numbers of incidents were small relative to the millions of tonnes of food and feed traded every day.
'But because trade disruptions may be very costly, and given the reported increase in the occurrence of these disruptions, FAO conducted this survey and is holding a technical consultation to try to start a dialogue between countries on the issue,' she stressed.
Ms. Clark stated that the first-ever survey also revealed that the highest number of incidents involved linseed, rice, maize and papaya, and that shipments with low levels of GM crops originated mainly from the US, Canada and China, among other countries.
'Once detected most shipments are destroyed or returned to sender,' the FAO official added.
Ms. Clarke said they were surprised to see incidents from every region, adding 'it seems the more testing and more monitoring they do, the more incidents they find'.
As testing technology is more sensitive now, many countries have asked FAO to help improve their capacity to detect GMOs.