Tolerance levels exist for many undesirable attributes in food for which there exists general consensus regarding the potential food safety hazard: insect fragments, stones, livestock antibiotics, chemical residues, weed seeds, etc. Yet much of the current debate about zero tolerance relates to the presence of genetically modified (GM) material, with far less consensus regarding the acceptance of traces of GM material and the role of science and technology as the arbiter of a safety threshold. The result has been international trade disruptions, and increased complexity in supply chain relationships. Embedded in zero tolerance standards for GM material are divergent perceptions encompassing what constitutes high and low quality and an extension of the use of zero tolerance requirements beyond food safety to encompass different notions of food quality. Against this background, the paper examines the drivers and implications of zero tolerance standards for GM material for supply chains and international trade.
Keywords: acyncronous approval, biotechnology, flax, genetic modification, international trade, pollen, zero tolerance, technology, globalisation