EU worry at lack of GM food testing in Ireland


Inspectors from the European Commission s Directorate General for Health and Food Safety said the lack of laboratory capacity at the Public Analyst s Laboratory (PAL), which is located in St Finbarr s Hospital in Cork, limits the number of samples that can be analysed.

The PAL is one of two laboratories responsible for analysis of GMOs used in food, feed, and seed in the Republic. The other is the UK s Food and Environment Research Agency based in York, which is Ireland s national reference laboratory.

Although the Cork laboratory fulfils the requirements of international standards and guidelines for GMO analysis, EU officials said its analysis capability was very limited . They found the facility can only conduct six out of 15 tests on genetically modified maize and one out of 15 tests on genetically modified soya bean.

The results of the audit also found analytic methods used for testing rice products imported from China were not carried out in accordance with EU regulations.

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, it concluded.

Nevertheless, only four out of 22 consignments of rice from China between 2012 and 2015 were accepted and imported as the remainder was non-compliant and was consequently destroyed or sent back.

The audit said the level of co-operation between PAL and the laboratory in York, in relation to co-ordination of activities, exchange of information, and technical assistance was not fully compliant with EU regulations.

It also claimed the layout of the Cork lab was not fully adequate to avoid the risk of cross-contamination.

Overall, EU inspectors were satisfied that a well-organised control system was in place in Ireland and that resources were allocated to implement GMO controls in all the necessary areas including field trials and seeds.

Checks on imported foods were deemed appropriate with the major concern relating to shortcomings in sampling. Prioritisation of controls was carried out on a risk basis when sampling food, feed and seed.

Inspections are carried out by trained and technically competent staff generally using appropriate methods, the EU officials concluded.

There is no commercial growing of GM crops in Ireland. Some field trials with GMO plants have been carried out since 1997 and there is currently one trial authorised on GM blight tolerant potatoes which is overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) said GM food was not considered as a specific safety concern . The Department of Agriculture said sampling and analysis were targeted at whole grains and feed materials imported from outside the EU where GM crops are grown, but not labelled as GM.

Risk crops are regarded as maize, oil seed rape, beet, and soya bean, which are mostly sourced from North and South America. Responding to the audit s findings, the PAL and FSAI said they would review the existing scope of the laboratory s analysis of food samples to comply with EU regulations.


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