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UK Organic Standards Threatened by Proposed Labeling Laws

(NewsTarget) Organic businesses in the United Kingdom have expressed alarm at government proposals to allow higher quantities of genetically modified (GM) ingredients into organic foods without labeling.

The government has proposed allowing foods labeled "organic" to contain up to 0.9 percent GM ingredients. Currently, the European Union's rules set this as the cutoff point that requires products to be labeled as containing GM ingredients. However, UK rules prohibit applying the "organic" label to foods containing any GM ingredients.

"There is overwhelming evidence that one of the main reasons that consumers by organic is to avoid eating food containing any GM," said Alex Smith, chair of the Organic Group of the Food and Drink Federation. "If the proposals set out by the government were implemented ... organic businesses [would] face enhanced risks of GM contamination, product recall and loss of their most valuable asset, the consumer trust that underlies their brand value."

The Soil Association, a nonprofit organization promoting organic farming, noted that while the government did not consult any organic businesses before coming up with the new proposed rules, it did meet directly with a number of GM companies.

"People who eat organic food will end up paying for a GM policy designed to benefit the GM companies," said Policy Director Peter Melchett.

The Organic Group and the Soil Association recently organized a meeting at the House of Commons to discuss these concerns. A motion was introduced to change the acceptable amount of GM material from 0.9 percent to 0.1 percent, a move that Melchett said he "warmly welcomed."

"Consumers have the right to choose non-GM foods," the motion reads, "and ... all foods containing GM material, or that come from livestock fed on GM should be clearly labeled as such."

"We hope it is not too late for the government to change [its] pro-GM stance, which threatens public trust in organic farming and food," Melchett said.