The guidelines were drawn up in an effort to ensure a sound scientific basis for the risk assessment of GM food and feed in the interest of European consumers.

The new guidelines stipulate that all authorisations for GM food and feed on the European market are valid for 10 years and, as scientific research advances, companies must provide all relevant new information that has become available during the years of commercialisation.

This information might include new scientific publications, unpublished information and all post-marketing monitoring reports, which are then assessed to see whether the conclusions of the original application for authorisation of the GM food and feed are still valid.

As clarification, the food safety watchdog underlined that companies seeking renewal of their GM feed "do not have to generate new data in support of their applications for the authorisation renewal."

Commenting on the new guidelines, Professor Hanspeter Naegeli from the agency's GMO panel said the guidance will shape a large part of the EFSA's work in the area of GMOs, as "many authorisations given over the last decade will have to be renewed in the coming years."

Pope Francis weighs into GMO debate

In other news on GM, in his letter last week to Bishops entitled "Care for our Common Home", Pope Franics presented two sides of the argument over the production of GMOs.

The pontiff said the expansion in the use of GMOs has helped drive economic growth in some regions but has added to increasing concentration of productive lands in the hands of a few, pushing out smaller producers.

It was evident from the letter, which focussed on a wide range of environmental issues relating to spiritual wellbeing, the Pope was keen not to dismiss the technology outright, seeing it as a development of conventional breeding systems.

However, he claimed the spread of biotech crops "destroys the complex web of ecosystems, decreases diversity in productions and affects the present and future of regional technologies. To this end it is necessary to ensure a scientific and social debate that is responsible and large, able to consider all the information available," he said.

He added that "greater effort is needed to finance various lines of independent, interdisciplinary research capable of shedding new light on the problem."

The pontiff also recognised climate change as a predominantly caused by human activities and the intensive use of fossil fuels, saying a new political body is needed to tackle the issue.

The 192 page letter comes in the run-up to the UN climate conference in Paris (30 November to 11 December) where international leaders will gather to form an agreement on how to tackle climate change.

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