EU Parliament Takes Strong
Stand on Frankenfoods

Article & Links to Press Releases

Members of European Parliament take strong stance on gene foods and crops
Environment Daily 1249
Wednesday 3 July 2002

The European parliament has backed strict new EU rules on tracking and
labelling genetically modified crops and food and feed products made
from them. But MEPs today went further than the changes advocated by the
European Commission by voting to ban shipments of conventional food and
feed containing accidental traces of non-EU-approved GM material.

The legislation given its parliamentary first reading today was
presented by the Comission a year ago, introducing harmonised EU
traceability and labelling for GMOs. Agreement on the rules is seen as
crucial for the lifting of a de facto moratorium on gene crop approvals
( ED
> 29/11/01).

The traceability requirements are relatively uncontroversial and most
debate has been over the labelling provisions. Voting on an environment
committee recommendation at its Strasbourg plenary session, the
parliament backed the Commission's plan to require even refined products
that no longer contain modified material to be labelled as derived from
GMOs. They also endorsed labelling of GMO-derived animal feeds. Neither
need be labelled currently.

But MEPs rejected the committee's proposal to require labelling of
products from animals fed on GM feed, and also came down against
labelling processing aids such as GM enzymes, again following the
Commission's line.

In what could prove to be the central issue during the second reading of
the proposals, however, MEPs threw out the Commission's plan to apply 1%
tolerance thresholds for the adventitious (accidental) presence of GM
material in non-modified products. The presence of GM material approved
elsewhere in the world but not in the EU should be banned entirely, they
said, while the threshold for EU-approved material should be lowered to

Biotechnology industry lobbyists were dismayed. "They [MEPs] don't seem
to understand that the rest of the world is moving on and using this
technology. We think the thresholds are simply unattainable," Simon
Barber of Europabio told Environment Daily. Food industry lobby CIAA
expressed similar sentiments.

Anti-biotechnology campaigners were jubilant. Friends of the Earth
called the vote a "major success for consumers and a serious defeat for
the biotech industry and the US government". If adopted, the thresholds
would force significant changes in American agricultural practices to
access EU markets and the US administration has indicated it could take
action through the World trade organisation.

The US mission in Brussels expressed disappointment with the vote. An
official said: "Regrettably, the European parliament has chosen to
ignore our repeated expressions of concern that the Commission's
proposals were unworkable, costly and subject to fraud. The proposals
will seriously impair trade in agricultural biotech products."

The Commission welcomed the backing for its labelling plans but said
restricting the tolerance thresholds would "put significant obstacles in
the way" of implementing the rules and "hamper" international trade.

Follow-up: European parliament <> ,
tel: +32 2 284 2111

pre-vote speeches by commissioners Margot
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press releases from the European Commission
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