26 July 2001
Anger at EU rules on GM labelling
By Philip Clarke, Europe editor
ENVIRONMENTAL groups and US traders have reacted angrily to new labelling and traceability rules for genetically modified organisms proposed by Brussels.
The EU commission plans call for a detailed audit of GMOs to be kept from farm to table, with records held for five years.
Retail tickets must also specify the presence of GMOs above a 1% threshold. For the first time, animal feed must also state the presence of GM material.
But environmental group Greenpeace said the proposals risked opening a hole in a dike, allowing unauthorised GMOs into the EU market for the first time.
While it welcomed the introduction of a more thorough labelling regime, the new regulations included a dangerous loophole.
The Commission is proposing to set a 1% threshold, not only for authorised, but also for unauthorised GMOs.
Below that threshold, their presence in a product would not need to be approved or labelled, said political advisor Brigid Gavin.
She claimed that the proposal was a reaction to increased pressure and threats from the US administration and GMO producing companies.
If the EU sets clear and uncompromising safety standards, the market will adapt to them, she said.
Opening loopholes like this, however, invites them to continue with their present strategy of sneaking unwanted and dangerous GMOs into our food chain.
The US has also attacked the plans as unworkable, suggesting they could operate as a trade barrier and force up prices.
Our major concern is that this proposal extends far beyond health protections for consumers and creates onerous and impractical regulatory barriers, said US trade representative, Robert Zoellick.
These trade and business obstacles are particularly unfortunate given the strong interest of the developing world in tapping biotechnology to improve nutrition, lower food costs and reduce reliance on pesticides.
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