GMO cultures in Belgium and in the EU

Currently, only one variety of GMO can be cultivated in the EU: the genetically modified maize MON810. This GM maize is currently not cultivated in Belgium.

In recent years, only a few field trials were conducted on a small scale in Belgium with GM poplars, GM potatoes and GM maize. Precautions and strict monitoring measures were imposed, among other things to prevent pollen from being available to bees. Either any inflorescences are removed before pollen formation or varieties are selected that do not release pollen.

Labelling of honey containing GM pollen

The European Union Court of Justice issued a judgment on September 6, 2011 on the presence of traces of pollen in honey from GM crops. The judgment states that the pollen is an ingredient of the honey. This would mean that the presence of GM pollen in honey must be stated on the label (if the GM pollen is more than 0.9% of the total amount of pollen in the honey).

However, the EU Honey Directive states that honey does not contain any ingredient and that pollen is a natural constituent of honey (it is even forbidden to add ingredients to honey). Since pollen represents only a small amount of the honey, about 0.5%, the 0.9 % limit for the labelling would moreover never exceed in reality.

The European Commission intends to lift the uncertainty caused by the Court of Justice's judgment by clearly indicating in the Honey Directive that pollen is indeed a constituent and not an ingredient of honey. It is in fact 'naturally' present in honey without the involvement of the beekeeper or the honey producer.

GM pollen and food security

It goes without saying that the presence of traces of GM pollen in honey cannot compromise food safety or public health. At the request of the European Commission, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) therefore assessed the safety of pollen from genetically modified maize MON810, the only GM crop currently cultivated in the EU.

EFSA concluded that genetic modification in the GM maize MON810 does not currently present any additional health risk if pollen from this maize does not replace pollen from non-GM maize in the foodstuff.

In addition, EFSA is busy assessing the safety of GM pollen from varieties that are not grown in the EU, but may be present in the foodstuff imported from third countries. So far, even in this respect the ESFA has each time concluded that any presence of this variety of GM pollen as replacement of non-GM pollen poses no additional health risk.