25 March 1998
Britain to urge ‘watered-down’ GM label scheme
BRITAIN will urge Europe next week to adopt a food labelling scheme that would deny consumers information about most items on sale, reports The Guardian.
It says there will be no way of telling if soya or corn oil, used in about 85% of processed foods, originates from genetically modified (GM) crops, if European ministers approve the scheme next Monday.
The scheme is designed to label all foods that are genetically modified. But there are arguments over the testing of GM foods.
Some consumer groups and European countries want produce to be tested for genetic modification as it leaves the farm gate. However, Britain is proposing to carry out tests only on processed foods. Crushing and heat treatment makes it impossible to detect new forms of DNA.
Single products such as tomato paste from GM tomatoes would have to be labelled under the scheme but processed foods using GM tomatoes would not test positive and therefore could not be labelled as “containing GM organisms”.
Friends of the Earth and other consumer groups accused the Government of giving up on attempts to force US importers to segregate GM foods and of bowing to industry pressure. And the backdown has angered many European MPs.
Meanwhile, Britains watchdog group on dangerous genetic releases has forced Monsanto and three other firms to destroy test sites growing GM crops after they allegedly breached their safety permits.
John Beringer, chairman, of the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment, said there had been no risk to anyone or to the environment.
The committee expects the commercial growing of GM oilseed rape, soya, maize, tomatoes and other products to begin in Europe within a year.
- The Guardian 25/03/98 page 4