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'GMO-free' logos

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Emily Waltz, Nature Biotechnology 27, 967 (2009)

Germany's agricultural minister Ilse Aigner on August 10 approved the "Ohne Gentechnik" logo, and in September, the Upland, California–based Non-GMO Project launched its own "Non-GMO Project Verified" label scheduled to appear in stores in the coming months. But with so many of the world's farmers growing genetically engineered crops, manufacturers will find it difficult to avoid ingredients completely free of the technology to meet the criteria. Both labeling systems allow some room for unintentional contamination. To receive the German logo, the product must be completely free of gene technology, with a contamination allowance of up to 0.1%. Food verified by the not-for-profit Non-GMO Project allows up to 0.9%. The US-based project chose the figure, in part, because it is used as a threshold in the EU's labeling regulations. Those rules say that food unintentionally containing biotech ingredients does not have to labeled as a GMO product—as long as the contamination is below 0.9%. But the EU's threshold is arbitrary, say agricultural policy researchers. "The decision [to choose 0.9%] was a purely political one," says Jens Katzek, managing director at BIO Mitteldeutschland, a biotech consulting group in Halle, Germany. "There was no scientific or economic basis," he says.