15 August 1997

Feeds with GMcontents to be labelled – EC

By Tony McDougal

FARMERS will be able to choose whether or not to feed genetically modified products to livestock following new labelling guidelines from the EU Commission.

The guidelines involve a three-pronged approach, requiring products to be labelled either that they definitely do or that they "may contain" GMOs. In addition, firms may be able to voluntarily indicate the proportion of produce of GM origin on the label. Any product which is not labelled will not include GMOs.

But the recommendations have angered the United States, which warned that if adopted, they could create future problems over trade relations.

The commission has also required foodstuffs to carry special labels from Nov 1 if they are made from GM soya and maize. This would include Monsantos Round Up Ready soya beans and Novartiss BT maize.

Vernon Barber, NFU biotechnology adviser, said the NFU had been campaigning long and hard for better labelling for both farmers and consumers. "Ever since the BSE crisis, farmers have wanted to know exactly what is going into their feed. This is a great step forward."

However, Mr Barber argued that in the short term there was a danger that the lack of testing equipment for GM products could lead the "this may contain" category to be rather large.

Paul Rook, UKASTA seeds manager, said most companies would be able to cope with providing additional labelling information on animal feed and that if necessary seed firms could introduce double length labels.

But, Mr Rook said he wanted to know precise rules governing what % of GM material should be present to require definitive labelling.

Paul Drazek, special assistant to US farm secretary Dan Glickman, said labelling of processed food, such as pork products from pigs raised on GM feed would be hard to accept.

"If that is going to be the case, it is going to impede trade. But if pork doesnt have to be labelled, because the percentage of pork that is made up with GMO is so small that it is considered irrelevant, than we dont have a problem with it."

&#8226 The Institute of Grocery Distribution said its latest research, involving 15 consumer focus groups in the UK, indicated that consumers strongly objected to the uncertainty surrounding a "may contain" label.