16 July 1999

USA might label its GMfoodstuffs

US agriculture secretary Dan Glickman has hinted that the US may label genetically modified food.

Previously the idea had been thrown out by US officials and there is still strong opposition amongst GM crop growers.

But speaking in Washington, Mr Glickman said: "Theres been a lot of discussion as to whether we should label GM products. At the end of the day many observers, including me, believe some type of informational labelling is likely to happen."

He also announced an independent scientific review of USDAs biotech approval process and the establishment of a cross-industry advisory committee on biotechnology.

"Two of the more significant challenges we face are grower and consumer awareness, and improving monitoring on a long-term basis.

"So, USDA will propose the establishment of regional centres around the country to evaluate biotech products over a long period of time," said Mr Glickman.

"Companies need to continue to monitor products, after theyve gone to market, for potential danger to the environment and maintain open and comprehensive disclosure of their findings."

But speaking at the US embassy last week, a delegation of US soya bean growers said that product labelling could "neither possibly nor practically answer consumer questions on GM foods".

They also insisted that segregation of conventional and GM crops was impossible on a large scale and that they would rather lose the EU market – worth £1bn a year – than invest in segregation measures.