International Non-GMO Summit: Strong Commitment to Dialogue and Collaboration
Updated: May 12
The first time key players in the Non-GMO-movement in Europe - ARGE Gentechnik-frei gent, Donau Soja, the European Non-GMO Industry Association ENGA, ProTerra Foundation and Verband Lebensmittel ohne Gentechnik VLOG - joined forces for an international summit. Together with producers, manufacturers, also from overseas, as well as retailers, chances and challenges along the supply chain were discussed in this international conference, the Non-GMO Summit. Together with the audience, the panellists were searching for solutions to strengthen the non-GMO sector as also the deforestation-free range. Around 200 participants from 19 countries and 4 continents were coming together in Frankfurt. They jointly declared their support for freedom from genetic engineering and deforestation.
Picture @NinaWerth / The main topic of how to strengthen and secure a stable Non-GMO market was discussed in four sessions and included the key players from across the Non-GMO value chain.
The fact is that for years a constant majority of consumers want food that is produced without genetic engineering. This is visible in growing Non-GMO markets in many EU countries and a growing organic market worldwide. Austria with the 1st #NonGMO labelling system has 6,500 products in the market and Germany had €16 bn of sales in 2022 with 80% of milk in Non-GMO quality. Meanwhile, the concerns have also expanded to ethical sourcing and deforestation is a topic that has come into focus. The EU regulation on deforestation-free supply chains, which will come into force in 2025, was also a core topic of the conference.
Because of the comparable effort involved,
Picture @karinheinze/ on the left Susanne Formwald, Donau Soja and
Emese van Maanen, ProTerra Foundation joint certification of GMO-free and deforestation-free soy is the most practicable approach. The soy certified according to the standards of the co-organisers Donau Soja and ProTerra Foundation already meets these requirements.
Picture @SönkeGuttenberg, VLOG / Summit participants are listening to the words of State Secretary Silvia Bender from the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture
A stable supply chain guarantees the freedom of choice for consumers
In her welcome address, State Secretary Silvia Bender from the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture emphasised the importance of freedom of choice and transparency, which is only made possible by labels such as "Ohne Gentechnik". She was impressed by the international gathering of experts from the entire value chain, from Europe including Ukraine, from Brazil, as well as from Africa and the USA.
Taras Vysotskyi, First Deputy Minister of Agrarian Policy and Food of Ukraine explained in his video statement that his country continues to be a reliable producer and supplier of GMO-free soy despite the war. Within the framework of the Danube Soy Partnership Programmes, all EU rules are already complied with and freedom from deforestation is guaranteed.
Eduardo Sampaio Marques, Agricultural Attaché at the Brazilian Embassy in Berlin, explained Brazil's importance in global supply chains. Through efficient agriculture, it contributes significantly to long-term food security. The feedstuffs for this are sufficiently available.
Picture@KarinHeinze/ Minister on the screen with moderator Tanja Busse
Fair pay for sustainability efforts and long-term contracts
The need for fair supply relationships and long-term contracts to ensure stable supply chains was stressed by many speakers. The tenor was that farmers should not pay for sustainability alone. Rather, costs and added value must be distributed fairly throughout the entire chain. Planning security is important for GMO-free cultivation. The continuous development of the "non-GMO" market, for example in the area of pork, is another central common concern.
Picture @KarinHeinze / The speakers from big retailers in Austria and Germany informed about their sustainability efforts. From the left side: Andreas Lidauer, HOFER/ ALDI SÜD, Cristina da Silva Joaquim, REWE, Tanja Busse, Moderator, Fritz Konz, tegut, Lukas Wiesmüller, SPAR Österreich.
Retailers focus on GMO-free assortments in the long term During the panel discussion of the retail sector, all stakeholders emphasised that the Non-GMO range is an essential product range of their assortment and an important part of their sustainability strategy and a long-term commitment. Fritz Konz of tegut explained that GMO-free is important, but it is only one step in tegut's holistic concept of expanding its range of organic products. After all, organic is the best quality and most comprehensive solution to environmental and climate problems. The question is whether the solidarity between the non-GMO and organic movements, which exists on the EU political level in the resistance against the deregulation of genetic engineering legislation, cannot be further expanded in the direction of cultivation methods. The representatives from Brazil who were present vehemently waved this off; they obviously cannot imagine converting to certified organic cultivation.
The special situation in Ukraine
Vitaly Kushnir, Managing Direction of ATK Group, Non-GMO producer in Ukraine, addressed the fact that relations between farmers and manufacturers a becoming closer. "We follow all rules of the EU in kind of sustainability and storage and transport, but we have due to the war extreme logistical problems." In 1.5 months the harvest is ready and we do not know if we can export. The volatility of prices is a second problem. Many other factors have an impact on the very sensitive system of soy production: weather, war, climate crisis etc. - he was asking for a better balance of risks and for to build a more sustainable system in future together with all stakeholders. He was very thankful for the support of VLOG.
Picture @KarinHeinze / Dialog between Brazil (middle: Marcus, Erich Thieme, Caramuru Alimentos) and Ukraine (Vitaly Kushnir, ATK Group)
The conference has initiated a fruitful dialogue among stakeholders from all sectors and levels, from seed production to food retail. Through such a trusting exchange and good cooperation, it would also be possible to jointly refute inaccurate claims, for example, about the alleged lack of availability of GMO-free feedstuffs, which repeatedly surfaced in the past year 2022 after the start of the Ukraine war.
Picture @KarinHeinze / The conference was organised and coordinated by the most important trade associations of the "non-GMO" market: Verband Lebensmittel ohne Gentechnik (VLOG), ARGE Gentechnik-frei, Donau Soja, European Non-GMO Industry Association (ENGA) and ProTerra Foundation. From left: Alexander Hissting, Florian Faber, Susanne Fromwald, Heike Moldenhauer, Emese van Maanen.
Due to the positive feedback from the participants, the organisers are already considering a repeat of the International Non-GMO Summit next year.
The programme and further information on the International Non-GMO Summit 2023 can be found on the conference website https://www.nongmosummit.com.
Author: Karin Heinze, BiO Reporter International