GMO identity preservation

The appearance of the genetically modified crops in the cultivation made necessary the prevention of the admixture of the products and the introduction of the identity preservation systems in agriculture. The production of GM crops and the supply to the consumer in many cases is long and a difficult way. Therefore in those countries where in the cultivation exist the GM, non GM and organic crops, or intend to allow the GM crop cultivation- food and/or feed- for the safety of the end product the product traceability and identity preservation is a requirement.


The producers has the right to choose between the cultivation systems that which allow to him to be economical, that should be a GM crop, a non GM crop or an organic crop. Therefore the EU Commission in the first half of the year 2004 has formulated its recommendation concerning the co-existence of the GM, non-GM and organic crops. The product identity preservation as a part of the product traceability is closely linked with the consumer expectations, giving an opportunity to those who intend to buy the products, that could be a GM product with the right labelling or a non GM product without labelling. In the case of foods and feeds in the EC is a requirement that if the product contain more than the allowed amount from GM material to be labelled. In the case of a product, which contain more than the allowed GM amount the producer take a risk and economic loses (lower prices, delivery problems etc.) which are enhanced with the monitoring cost (analysis) and the cost to avoid the admixture of the products.

The producers are growing their crops under very differentiate environmental conditions (soil, climate), technologies and economic conditions. In the process of the introduction of the product identity preservation and during its application this should be taken in consideration. Therefore when applying the requirements near the general requirements, the special condition, like profile of the farm, environmental and economic conditions have to be taken in consideration. The application of the identity preservation systems is valid for all those sites where the product is produced, manipulated and traded, where products can be differentiated from each other. That means that the identity preservation is not only valid for GM crops, although for non-GM crops, like the traditional seed production process. For GM and non-GM crops the identity preservation is a maximum requirement, the certification of genetic modification for such traits which role is to enhance the cropping process efficiency.

In the process of the production, treatment, storing, delivery, processing of the agricultural commodities the identity preservation require an added effort and cost. In this way can be guaranteed that the products are separated from other crops and keep its identity. The added cost represents mainly the manipulation cost in the farms, ex farm, during transport, storage, labelling and final delivery. The cost type can vary from site to site, according to the environmental conditions, the end use of the product, the complexity of the delivery chain, the training skill of the personal, the manipulated amount, logistic and so. According to the economic calculations the mentioned cost can vary, at soy been for example this could be 10-15% added cost.


1.     Concepts in the identity preservation

During the preparation of the identity preservation systems the following should be respected:

 ·        the decision should be taken in account to the latest scientific results. In any case during the production process the GM content should be hold under the allowed limits. There is a need that according to the latest scientific results the monitoring and validation processes to be kept updated.

·        the product segregation processes has to take in consideration the utilised technologies and practices. The seed production system can serve a good example.

·        the system has to be cost effective and efficient, without substantial over costs. The practices should take in consideration the specifity of the fields and the technology of cultivating GM crops.

·        in the process of establishing the right sizes of the plots, the field sizes of other neigborough farms has to be taken in consideration, as well the cultivated species, the crop rotation and others. If it is possible the cultivation of GM crop has to be focused in one area.

·        the cultivation of the GM crops can be further diversified according to species and varieties to grow and end use to which the environmental conditions (soil, climate) and applied technology can add other specific characters.

·        during the cultivation between farmers the information exchange, communication ways has to be settled, mostly in GM regions. The farmer has to avoid the gene transfers from GM fields and /or reduce to the minimum this process.

·        the insurance system has to be controlled for all those cases when an admixture in the product is happen and therefore a farmer or a trader has economic loses. The insurance possibilities have to be checked.

·        -the management of the GM farms has to monitor the cultivation, storing and delivery processes. The applied methods have to improve from time to time. Near the above mentioned requirements the following has to be respected:

·        the targeted identity preservation level: the GM crops and the non GM crops can be cultivated in the same farm in the same year, or in different years in the same farm, or in different years in different farms, or in the same region in different farms.

·        the admixture level: between GM crops and non GM crops there are different ways of admixture like the pollenisation from the surrounding plots, during harvesting, product manipulation, transport, storage, animal contamination, procurement of contaminated seed and volunteer plants. The contamination effects from different sources can be added.

·        the labelling: requirements from the EC and/or at national level should be respected. Under ecological farming the GM seed use is prohibited.

·        the specifity of the cultivated varieties: the inter and intra species cross pollination, the pollination way, formation of volunteer crops, flowering time, pollen viability and competitiveness,

·        the crop production, seed production, feed production technologies,

·        the environmental conditions: the GM and non GM crop cultivated in the area (number, species, variety, cultivated area, plots situation, applied technologies, the size and activity of the pollinator bee population, climatic conditions, relief, the presence or absence of the natural obstacles in the pollen dissemination etc.

·        obstacles in cross pollenisation: male sterility, apomixis of the cultivated crops


2.     Requirements in and out of the cultivation field

a) requirements out of the cultivation field

·        plant and variety breeding: the development of new varieties, hybrids under controlled conditions. Mainly at the foreign pollinator plants is necessary the respecting of the isolation distances. Different crops require different isolation distances. The requirements under seed production for the 99% purity can be realised under isolated conditions. The 100% purity can be achieved only in hermetic isolation. In GM crops cultivation similar purity has to strive with variety breeding. The unsatisfactory isolation condition has proved their economic effect when in an European seed production in non-GM oil seed and corn got GM seeds.

·        seed propagation: in a similar way as in the variety breeding, to prevent the cross pollination, it is important to respect the isolation distances. In general the 98% purity is accepted.

·        seed trade: the different sorts, classes, lots have to be separated and labelled. During seed propagation when the isolation distances are not respected there is a risk for cross pollenisation. The pollination process is influenced by the fecundation of the plant, the pollen viability, the sexual incompatibility, the presence or absence of physical barriers and other conditions.


b) requirements in the production field: in the field the product identity preservation at least in 4 times has to be fulfilled: during planting (sowing), harvesting, transport and storage,

·        during sowing: the farmers has to be convinced that he/she use the right seed. That means that the GM seed has to be separated from the non-GM seeds .The farmer has to know the labelling requirements and to use the seed according to the prescriptions. The sowing has to be registered, in this way the chances to admixture the different crops is less.

·        during harvesting: cleaning the combine harvesters the admixture level can be reduced. If more time is spent to the cleaning of the combine harvesters, less time remain for the harvest.

·        during storage: the storage places should be such organised to avoid product admixture. If it is possible for GM and non-GM crops separate storehouses should be build.

·        during transport: it is important that the transport vehicles before the transport to be cleaned. A cleaning procedure should be applied any time when is a risk of admixture. The cleanness of the site at the filling in and out from the storehouse, the sampling and analysis can reduce the product admixture.


The identification process consist the base of the GM and non GM product separation and should permit the product traceability starting from the production place to the plate of the consumer, and should assure as well the product quality and composition during the food and feed chain. It is important that the end user can monitor the identification system.

The development of the identity preservation systems and their practical use in not closed yet. On the European market the development of this systems is in the process, the American GM market is not interested is such systems. As the contamination possibility persist, the systems developed in Europe has to comply to EC requirements which prescribe labelling of food and feed which contain more than 0,9 % GM material. To comply with this requirement the EC made a proposal for plants with cross pollination 0,3% GM content is seed, for self pollinating plant and those with vegetative propagation 0,5 % GM content. For the GM free status the cultivation system has to assure monitoring and audit possibilities. Test is required for proving the crop identity.

Supposing the prescribed contamination of 0,3 % (rape and corn) and 0,5 %(sugar beet) the following mean limits can be expecting in the food or feed:


The GM contamination sources at different crops

Risk factors

Oil rape (%)

Corn (%),

Sugar beet (%),


0,3, 0,5,











Cross pollination




Volunteer crops
















Mean value (%)




Source: EU Scientific Committee on Plants, (2001)


Some cropping conditions of the plants are linking with the use of the Good Agricultural Practices, which contain for example the crop rotation or respecting the isolation distances. In crop rotation for example the EC recommendation for forage protein crops, oil crops and fibre crops is five year, for other crops is two year. Considering the isolation distances there are some ideas that the actually used isolation distances for seed production simply should be doubled for GM crops.

The assurance of the identity preservation is the base of the right information for the participants in the food and feed chain. The information starts from the breeder and trough the certification processes reach every participant in the chain.