Traceability and Quality Assurance


Progress Working Group 4: Traceability and Quality Assurance

In the First Plenary Meeting (WG meeting), May 12-13, Wageningen, the following points were discussed:

  1. The need for more transparency and information exchange between science and consumers was underlined by consumer group representatives. There was general consensus that a resulting report should be an integrative approach consisting of a scientific part reflecting the current status of the actual situation but also considering the demands of consumers and existing regulatory demands.
  2. The wish for labelling of foods which are derived from gmo but do not contain detectable gmo as well as the critical view on "negative" lists from the side of the consumer groups was discussed. It was considered that the problem of certification throughout the food chain could not be solved by the working group. But there was agreement that this issue of particular consumers interest should be included in the report.
  3. With respect to labelling "free from gmo" and the need for investigating "conventional" products throughout the production chain, thoughts on financial aspects and possible negative impacts on smaller companies (SME's) and product price entered the discussion. It was suggested that an expert on economics on this topic might be invited to future meetings. The wish was expressed that a foresight in this respect should be one of the outputs of the report.
  4. The traceability of imported foods was discussed. It was pointed out, that the microarray technique could be part of the solution by its capability to cover a wide range of gmo in one and the same assay. However it was also noticed that one new technique cannot solve all problems in this respect. The issue also strikes aspects of fraud, identity, European competitiveness and trans boundary problems with view on global trade which should be discussed in the report.
  5. During the ongoing discussion the following aspects have been considered to be included in the group's position paper: availability of reference materials (properties/limitations/problems caused by unknown polyploid hybrids to be investigated in future); availability of sequence information, labelling (e.g. how to label batches/single products); sampling; socio-economic aspects.
  6. The Working Group decided to address the issues in the following three sub working groups:
  • Detection methods and standardisation: current state of the art
  • Stimulating public debate
  • Practicable implication of traceability on producers

It was decided to have a draft report worked out until the next working group meeting in October 2000. A first draft of each working group should be presented to the chair by midth of July.

At the Second Plenary Meeting (WG meeting) October 13-14, Copenhagen, three working papers had been elaborated by members of the sub working groups and disseminated among group members prior to the meeting. The essentials of the discussion are summarised as follows:

  1. The future form of an overall report was discussed, especially if a web-distributed version or paper document should be compiled. Questions raised about a size limitation for single documents and to which target group the report is aimed at. There was agreement that the report should not be too long and should be readable in particular for e.g. politicians involved in gm legislative but also for the interested non-scientist reader in general. The proposal came up to have two parallel reports: one short version - understandable for the general public - and one more detailed version aimed for scientists and interested public since transparency is considered to be one main issue of the project. A proposal for a web version was made consisting of short descriptive summaries (or a synthetic summary) for each chapter which are linked to a full version which might be opened for more detailed information. It was agreed, that the contributions of the WG4 report should form a unit and not a collection of non-related reviews.
  2. The following items were discussed and recommended to be put into the overall report of WG4:
  • The economic impact of certification systems and "post marketing surveillance" (PMS) programmes on SME's and other companies.
  • The aspect of the need for global recognition and acknowledgement of measurements.
  • A more general part about the question of labelling/identification.
  • The problem of quantification in processed products and gene stacked gmos.
  • The problem of reference materials of non-approved GM-food
  • The consumer position should be integrated into a conclusive discussion.
  1. An outline for a structure of the joint WG4 report based on five chapters which was discussed.
  1. Detection vs identification
  2. Gene stacking
  3. International standardisation
  4. Quantification
  5. Quantification in processed products
  6. Sampling strategies
  7. Availability of reference materials and sequence information
  8. Cost for consumers and producers (interests SMEs vs. Interests consumer)
  9. Imported foods/unauthorized GMO varieties
  10. Data on consumption in EU memberstates/regions
  11. Product inter- and intravariability
  12. GMO-derived products that no longer contain DNA/protein
  13. GMO free food chains vs. Traceability in conventional chains - impact
  14. Insight in acceptability - second generation products
  15. Communication strategies
  1. The WG considers to invite external experts to contribute to single chapters which cannot be covered by the group's expertise. It was proposed to invite a speaker on IP-systems for the next IDP meeting