Summary of Main Co-Extra Deliverables Results, Perspectives, Information Dissemination & Application
Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA)
June 4, 2009
Co-Extra International Conference, Paris, France, June 2-3, 2009
Co-Extra is an FP6 (contract 007158) research program of the priority 5 (Food safety and quality) of the European Commission which started in April 2005 and finishes in September 2009. Its main aim is to provide practical tools to implement coexistence and traceability for the coexistence of supply chains using either GMO, conventional products or organic agriculture derived products. This integrated project completes the two complementary STREPS: SIGMEA working mostly on field coexistence and transcontainer focusing on biocontainment.
The coexistence is understood as the ability to farmers to produce the agricultural products they wish, while still enabling the freedom of choice of consumers. The documentary and analytical traceability studied in Co-Extra are two tools necessary for both managing the coexistence of supply chains and controlling the results of this management. The products to be managed originate either from the European agriculture or from imports from third countries. In several aspects this management of supply chains does not differ from systems already in place, such as waxy maize, or seeds productions. The segregation of such specialities is quite well known and controlled in the EU and several third countries, and does not impact too much European supply chains costs. The main issue in segregating GM and non-GM products lies thus in a rather low labelling threshold of 0.9% and the use of the DNA unit to measure this, as recommended by the EC.
Co-Extra first attempted to address coexistence from the farm to the retailer by starting empirical studies and modelling in fields, and studying their outcomes management in the upper parts of the supply chains. Gene flow studies on long distance of pollen dispersion on fragmented landscape were undertaken and statistical models were validated for e.g. maize. Biocontainment methods, designed to minimize gene flow, were also studied. The effects of seeds admixtures, as well as those of stacked genes, on fields outcomes on current pollen flow models and seeds purity were assessed.
Costs-benefits analyses of coexistence and traceability were undertaken while looking for the most cost-effective detection methods to reduce their impact on the final costs. The practices of traders and third countries farmers were analyzed in order to determine trends that may predict the future of European supply chains.
As a consequence of the 178/02 European regulation, documentary traceability is a well known and implemented practice in European companies. GMO traceability differs from this general request of traceability by adding a longer period of documents preservation. Studies of documentary traceability, particularly in third countries, were undertaken for its positive impact on cost-effectiveness on final prices and its current use in the EU. While the European policy opened the door to analytical controls, documentary traceability is a underestimated way to trace products at the lowest costs in supply chains provided the critical points of supply chains are clearly identified and mastered after initial analytical controls.
As it was exemplified in a previous European study (Kelda / Keste) sampling large batches such as shipments of several thousand tons is not an easy task. The same apply to sampling in fields. As sampling is also carried out for several other purposes such as mycotoxins, pathogens, allergens, a survey of sampling plans was carried out and the interest of combining different sampling plans tested.
Thanks to the 1829/03 and 1830/03 regulations, detection methods (currently Quantitative Real-Time PCR) of EU approved GMOs are all validated through collaborative trials by the CRL (Community Reference Laboratory of the Joint Research Centre at Ispra). However, the implementation of such methods validated by using a particular chemistry and generally a particular kind of apparatus may be costly and thus induce inappropriate analytical costs. Co-Extra thus decided to compare chemistries and apparatuses to provide an enlarged freedom to laboratories applying these techniques. Alternative detection methods to PCR were also studied as well as fit-for-purpose apparatus to be used in fields. More generally speaking, several ways to improve the cost-effectiveness of current analytical methods were assessed.
As the GMO production is increasing worldwide, numerous incidents of involuntary release of GMO occurred over the last years. GMO approved earlier in third country (e.g. asynchronous approvals between e.g. USA and the EU) have appeared on the European markets. More worrying, newcomers in GMO production, such as some emerging countries, have developed unapproved GMO which have now reached the European markets. In response to this arrival of several EU unapproved GMO, Co-Extra launched studies for developing detection methods for detecting EU unapproved GMOs. The same applied to GMO with stacked genes; some being unapproved though their isolated counterpart may be approved, and to determine accurately the kernels contents of samples having GMO mixtures of stacked and non-stacked genes.
In order to retrieve information from stakeholders and share results with stakeholders, a dialogue was initiated through the web site, newsletters, focus groups, and a Stakeholder Advisory Board. In addition, the interviews carried out for the supply chains management and economic studies. This dialogue was also improved during a large study of consumers’ attitudes and opinions in several European countries. From some attitudes observed in the focus groups Co-Extra started studies on how to solve the issue of 'low botanical presence’, where , for example a non GMO cargo may be admixed with very low levels of a different GMO cultivar.
The coexistence and the impact of traceability are both legal issues, thus several studies were launched on the current status of coexistence and traceability legal frame, liability and redress mechanisms. As the scientific expertise per se is also prone to legal contests, a study was launched on this, as well a cost-benefit analysis from a legal point of view on a supply chain case study.
All the results to be issued from Co-Extra are difficult to synthesize in a way that makes them easily made available and mastered, particularly by all stakeholders such as SMEs. This is also true for the laboratories analysts who in routinely face several issues difficult to solve (as for instance the detection of unapproved GMO). Co-Extra thus launched a set of modules of a DSS (Decision Support System), integrating economic parts, management of supply chains with decision rules, laboratory analytical parts including careful assessment of the need for detecting unapproved GMOs in a sample.
All together, the 4 years research of Co-Extra has been performed by more than 200 scientists, with their teams and has been attempting to provide insights of current practices and solutions to issues as well as providing solutions for unpredictable situations. For the first time, a EU research program has been addressing the whole supply chains, from seeds to retailers shelves, their practices, their requirements for taking into account both their current solutions and providing new ones. The needs of the supply chains and their impact on production of crops provided new questions on coexistence and traceability, including cost- and time-effectiveness of analytical methods. The practical implementation of the several observations and solutions developed by Co-Extra will have important technical, scientific, economic and legal impacts.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 17
Keywords: coexistence, GMO, OGM, genetically modified organism, geneticaly modified organism, genetically engineered organism, geneticaly engineered organism, supply chain, filière, food, feed, alimentation animale, alimentation humaine, trade, commerce, detection, traceability, traçabilité, segregation
JEL Classification: L65working papers series
Date posted: March 4, 2012
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