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STC number: 327
EU Court of Justice ruling regarding pollen derived from GMOs
Maintained by:
European Union
Raised by:
Supported by:
United States of America
First date raised:
October 2011 G/SPS/R/64, paras. 44-46
Dates subsequently
Number of times
subsequently raised:
Products covered:
Primary subject
Subject keywords:
June 2013 (G/SPS/R/71, paras. 4.36-4.38)
Not reported
Raised orally.
Other concerns
Control, Inspection and Approval Procedures; Food safety; Genetically
modified organisms; Human health; Other concerns
Date reported as
Extracts from SPS Committee Meeting summary reports
In October 2011, Argentina stated that on 6 September 2011, the European Court of Justice (ECJ)
had adopted a new interpretation of the scope of EC Regulation No. 1829/2003, considering pollen
derived from GM crops as an ingredient of honey and not a natural component. This was in conflict
with the Codex standard for honey. The ruling resulted in legal uncertainty, which lead European
importers to interrupt purchases of honey produced in Argentina pending the implementation of
the ruling, to the detriment of the very small scale beekeepers and regional economies that
depended on this activity. Argentina requested the European Union to promptly take all necessary
measures to remove the uncertainty caused by the ECJ judgment, and to ensure that
implementation of the ECJ judgment did not restrict honey imports.
Canada, Mexico, Paraguay, the United States and Uruguay shared the concerns of Argentina.
Mexico expressed its appreciation for having been invited for further discussions in Brussels on the
implementation of the ECJ decision. Brazil emphasized that the EU policy regarding GMOs was
trade restrictive and observed that it faced similar problems concerning red beans.
The European Union observed that honey containing GM pollen had previously been considered to
be outside the scope of the relevant legislation. Following the ruling, GM pollen in honey must be
explicitly authorized before entering the EU market, and imported honey products which contained
GMOs that were not authorized for use in pollen would not be allowed. Even though the specific
GM crop in this case (MON 810) had been authorized in the European Union for more than ten
years, it had not been authorized for uses which included pollen. The European Union was taking
steps to fill the existing regulatory gaps until EFSA provided an opinion on the safety of the MON
810 pollen in honey, and was considering how to ensure the proper implementation of the ruling
without unnecessarily disrupting the supply of honey to EU consumers. It would be holding open
dialogues with its member States, all interested third countries and other stakeholders.
In June 2013, Argentina reiterated its concern regarding the ECJ ruling of September 2011 that
defined pollen as an ingredient of honey, while Codex and the EU Directive 2001/110/EC
considered pollen as a natural component of honey. In light of this new definition, honey that
contained GMO-derived pollen was subject to a pre-authorisation process and should be labelled in
order to be marketed throughout the European Union. The European Commission's proposal to
modify Directive 2001/110/EC on honey was being discussed in the EU Parliament and the Council.
Argentina stressed that the implementation of the ECJ ruling should be based on scientific
evidence, be the least trade restrictive as possible and be consistent with the WTO SPS
The United States shared Argentina's concern and noted that the ECJ ruling posed a potential
barrier to trade. The United States therefore encouraged the European Commission to act
expeditiously on its intention to amend Council Directive 1002/110/EC to clarify that pollen was a
natural constituent of honey, as stated by Codex, and not an ingredient. The United States also
encouraged the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCFCAH) to vote, at
the earliest opportunity, to authorise the application to include pollen.
The European Union reported that the proposal to amend the Honey Directive was working its way
through the legislative process. According to this proposal, pollen would be considered as a natural
constituent of honey and, as such, would not need to be mentioned in the list of ingredients.
Nevertheless, the EU GMO legislation would continue to apply and the presence of authorised GMO
pollen in honey should continue to be labelled if it exceeded the threshold of 0.9% of the total
amount of honey.