EU Moving to Stricter Labels
on Frankenfoods

June 7, 2002

EU Takes Steps to Require More Labeling for GMOs


BRUSSELS -- In a vote reflecting deep divisions over biotechnology, the
Environment Committee of the European Parliament voted narrowly in favor of
more extensive labeling of foods and animal feeds containing genetically
modified organisms.

The committee voted to require the European Union to require mandatory
labeling for meat, dairy products and highly refined goods such as sugar and
soybean oil produced from biotech ingredients -- even if no remnants of
genetic modification are detectable.

It also voted to lower the threshold at which mandatory labeling would
kick in, setting it at 0.5% per ingredient instead of 1% per ingredient,
and to forbid the sale of any products containing traces of biotech
ingredients not authorized in the 15-nation EU, even if they are widely
authorized and grown outside the EU.

The U.S., along with many food producers in both Europe and the U.S.,
has warned that such stricter labeling requirements would result in a de
facto ban on all products with a biotech label. In fact, even in advance
of the new rules, many supermarkets are declaring their shelves
biotech-free zones. "This would cause huge problems," said one U.S.
government official who spoke on condition of anonymity. Biotech
products are subject to no special labeling at all in the U.S.

The committee vote is only preliminary. The European Parliament as a
whole is scheduled to consider the committee's recommendations later
this summer, and the draft law also faces review by European capitals,
the European Commission, which has objected to many of the amendments,
and then a second reading in the parliament.

Center-right politicians, who hold the majority in the parliament as a
whole, in the committee voted overwhelmingly for less onerous rules,
arguing that the amendments ultimately voted through by the committee
would cause trade friction, confuse consumers and invite fraudulent and
deceptive labeling. But a coalition of Socialist and Green members
supported stricter rules, which they argued are needed to help rebuild
confidence of European consumers grown skittish in the wake of a series
of food scares.

Geert Ritsema, a lobbyist for the environmentalist pressure group
Friends of the Earth, which had campaigned for stricter rules, called
the outcome "quite positive" from an environmentalist point of view.
"All foods derived from genetically modified organisms have to be
labeled," he said.

If the amendments stick, that means labels will be required for highly
refined soybean oils and sugars, along with meat and dairy products from
animals fed on biotech corn and soybeans, although they contain no traces of
genetically modified proteins. The committee voted to require labeling on
the basis of a complicated traceability scheme -- essentially requiring a
food ingredient to be labeled as biotech or non-biotech at each step of
the food production process.

Euro MPs vote for tougher rules on GM food labels

BRUSSELS, June 4 (Reuters) - Genetically modified (GM) food and fodder
should be clearly labelled and kept separate from non-GM varieties, a key
European Parliament committee voted on Tuesday.

Parliament's environment committee voted to toughen draft European Union
rules aimed at reassuring consumers they can avoid GM foods if they choose.

The bill, once approved could finally unlock EU approval of scores of
new GM crops. The 15-country bloc has not issued a single new GM permit
since 1999 when a large minority of member states vowed to stall approvals
pending the new regulations.

The committee endorsed plans, proposed by the European Commission last July,
to make sure all food and animal feed made from GM ingredients be labelled
as such, even if processing had destroyed any trace of genetic modification.

It voted to extend this requirement to meat, eggs and milk from animals
fed on GM fodder.It deleted a proposal to allow up to one percent of
unauthorised GM strains in non-GM products -- effectively banning any
contamination by crops that are not allowed in the EU.

Environmentalists hailed the vote as a victory but the bio-tech industry
said it hoped the full parliament would reject many of the amendments
when it voted on the issue in July. Parliament shares lawmaking powers
with EU member states.

"It was a vote for common sense, it's very good for consumers and the
environment," Geert Ritsema, Friends of the Earth Europe's GMO
campaigner, said.Industry body EuropaBio said it wanted a higher
threshold for accidental ixing of authorised GM crops with non-GM.

The committee voted for a 0.5 percent maximum, but industry wants more
leeway, arguing that rules on organic foods allow up to five percent
non-organic content.

"We think what happened in the environment committee was a (biotech) sceptic
vote," EuropBio's Adeline Farrelly said.

Last month a British parliamentary committee said the proposed rules
were unworkable. "It is not practical to legislate for the degree of
traceability envisaged by the Commission, particularly for bulk commodity
imports such as soya and maize," the Earl of Selborne, who chaired an
inquiry into the proposals, said.

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