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Detection of genetically modified pollen in honey

On 6 September 2011, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) passed a judgement on the subject of pollen from genetically modified plants (C-442/09). In this judgement, the ECJ classified pollen in honey as an ingredient in terms of food regulations. As a result, as per Directive (EC) 1829/2003, products such as honey that contains pollen from genetically modified plants should now be treated as foodstuffs that contain ingredients manufactured from GMO. Therefore, the approval and labelling obligations of Directive (EC) 1829/2003 must now be applied to honey containing pollen from genetically modified plants.

Detection of genetically modified pollen in honey

Especially honey imported from countries with large areas of genetically modified plants under cultivation, such as for example Canada or in North and South America, can contain genetically modified pollen. Genetically modified pollen can be detected in honey by the heriditary material it contains.

We offer quick, reliable detection of genetically modified pollen in honey. You can choose between two programmes:

  • The more inexpensive short programme, which can record about 95% of common genetically modified plants, including for example the genetically modified maize type MON 810, whose presence in honey triggered the ECJ’s decision.
  • The more comprehensive GMO screening, which can detect a further 2–3% of GMO events, that is to say, about 98% of GMOs.

In the event of a positive finding, the GMO must be specified and if necessary quantified.

The problems associated with detecting genetically modified pollen in products containing honey

When detecting genetically modified pollen in products containing honey, it must be taken into consideration that often, only a very small quantity of DNA from pollen is available for detection. And the amount of pollen in honey is only approximately 0.1 to 0.5%. If pollen from genetically modified plants is contained, the proportion of it forming the entire pollen content is in turn extremely small. Furthermore, when extracting DNA from pollen, the yield is comparatively small.

What’s more, in compound foodstuffs which, as well as honey, contain other ingredients rich in DNA, such as cereal flour, the extracted DNA predominantly comprises DNA material from the other ingredients.
It is therefore not always possible to be able to detect genetically modified pollen in compound foodstuffs. To make matters even more complicated, in the event of a positive finding, it cannot be ascertained whether the genetic modifcation originated from the pollen in the honey or from other ingredients.

If you have any questions, our team would be pleased to assist you!

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