14 September 2001

GMtraceability still not enough

EU Commission attempts to tighten up on the labelling and traceability of genetically modified materials do not go far enough, MEPs declared this week.

In particular, the fact that meat, milk and eggs derived from animals raised on GM feed would not have to be labelled as such would prevent consumers from making a fully informed choice, they said.

"In the light of the BSE scare, consumers want to know, and have a right to know, what the animals have been fed," Irish Green MEP, Patricia McKenna, told the European parliament environment committee on Tuesday (Sept 11).

German socialist MEP, Dagmar Roth-Behrendt agreed, pointing out that scientists had not been able to say if products from animals fed GMs were in any way different from those raised on conventional feeds. There was a clear parallel with the 1980s, she suggested, when the idea that BSE could be passed on to humans was dismissed as "a nonsense".

But food safety commissioner, David Byrne, said these comparisons were unfair. Only EU-approved GM material would be included in animal feed in future, he said.

The commissions proposals were tabled in July and the hope is that, once agreed by the European parliament and member states, they will kick start the GM approvals process, which has been subject to a moratorium. &#42

for the past three years.

But MEPs were also concerned about the plan to allow up to 1% accidental inclusion of GM materials without specifying them on the label, so long as they were approved by EU scientists. This should be more like 0.1%, said UK Conservative MEP, John Bowis.

Mr Byrne said the 1% figure was recommended by scientists, though it would be kept under review as tests became more accurate.

The new labelling and traceability laws would apply equally to imported materials as EU-produced, he added. Commission lawyers were convinced the new rules would be World Trade Organisation compatible. And Mr Byrne did not anticipate any trade problems with the US, who would come to recognise that meeting the rules was a prerequisite for gaining consumer confidence in the EU.