GMOs in Honey? You’ll Never Know

During a plenary session in Strasbourg yesterday, the European Parliament, following the European Commission’s lead, voted against a European court order to start labeling honey containing genetically modified pollen (see press release). The European Court of Justice had ruled in 2011 that honey contaminated with GM pollen had to be labeled as such, but the Commission then determined that pollen is a constituent part of honey, rather than an ingredient, and therefore did not require labeling. The proposal was brought to the Parliament by Julie Girling (European Conservatives and Reformists Group, United Kingdom).

According to the MEPs’ interpretation of “pollen as a natural constituent of honey, rather than an ingredient,” in line with the European Commission’s position (COM (2012) 530), it will not be necessary to indicate on the label the presence of GM pollen, unless it makes up more than 0.9% of the honey. As pollen content rarely makes up more than 0.5% of honey, it would be unlikely to exceed the labeling threshold. If, as stated in the September 6, 2011 European Court of Justice ruling (Proceeding C-442/09), pollen was classified as an ingredient, the 0.9% GMO threshold would apply to the total pollen, rather than the total honey, and the presence of a GM ingredient would have to be included on the label.

The Parliament voted with 430 in favor, 224 against and 19 abstentions to adopt the modified text defining pollen as a constituent rather than an ingredient, and the proposal will now be discussed with individual member states, who will determine its final form.

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