HAMBURG (Reuters) - Germany will oppose any European Union move to allow traces of unapproved genetically-modified (GM) organisms in food in a similar way to the tolerance level permitted by the EU in animal feed, a German newspaper said on Monday.
In the summer of 2011, the EU adopted new rules allowing traces of unapproved GM material in animal feed imports, in a bid to prevent disruption feed grain imports as GM crops are introduced more quickly in other regions than the EU approves new types.
But German Farming and Consumer Protection Minister Ilse Aigner would oppose any move to end the zero-tolerance rule for unapproved GM content in imports of human food, the daily newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported.
Aigner believes changing the zero-tolerance rule for food imports would damage the rights of consumers to buy GM-free food if they wish and would also reduce transparency of food labeling, the report said.
EU policy on GM crops has long been politically fraught, with a majority of European consumers opposed to modified foods, but with GM crops now making up a large proportion of harvests in North and South America.
New GM strains are approved most years in these regions but such crops cannot be imported by the EU even in tiny traces until given the green light by the bloc's approvals process.
Food industry lobbies in Germany and other countries are pressing for a modest level of non-approved GMs to be permitted in food to prevent disruption to trade, the report said.
In 2009, U.S. soybean shipments to Europe were blocked after small traces of unapproved GM material were found in some cargoes. This led to the EU decision to permit a 0.1 percent level of unapproved GMs in animal feeds but not human food.
But even such small amounts are opposed by some environmentalists who argue that the effect of consuming GM crops is unknown.
(Reporting by Michael Hogan; editing by Jason Neely)