GM labelling faces a rough ride

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Member states, European union

One of the toughest legislations in the world on genetically
modified organisms came into force in Europe on Thursday with a new
EU Directive that strengthens 10-year-old rules on testing and
licensing GMOs used as crops or ingredients.

One of the toughest legislations in the world on genetically modified organisms came into force in Europe on Thursday with a new EU Directive that strengthens 10-year-old rules on testing and licensing GMOs used as crops or ingredients.

European Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström said: " With the new Directive we have a strong basis for a transparent and responsible way of governing the use of GMOs."

The new Directive will ensure that all GM food and crops undergo a series of rigorous risk assessment tests before they are authorised for sale, marketing, or even planting anywhere in the EU.

Governments will also have a statutory duty to consult the public.

But any industry hopes that the legislation would unblock a European moratorium on GMOs in place since 1998 were shown to be premature as some EU Member states said more rules were needed first on other aspects of GM food.

At a meeting on Thursday of EU environment ministers in Luxembourg, which coincided with the introduction of the new law, GM-sceptic member states reaffirmed they would not authorise any new products before additional rules on labelling were in place.

"There are no reasons to lift the moratorium while the traceability and labelling laws are not in place,"​ a French source told reporters on the sidelines of the meeting.

Wallstrom said she wanted the moratorium lifted and feared a trade dispute with Washington. But she told reporters some EU states might use delaying tactics to block GM imports.

"In some member states they are very much against GMOs. They will probably take every chance to move the goalposts and find another obstacle (after the new rules),"​ said Wallstrom.

Extra traceability and labelling rules face a tough ride through the EU's legislature with opinions on the proposals remaining distinctly mixed with some Member states calling for zero GMO presence in foods and others backing a one-per cent threshold.

The proposal is to label all GM goods, even highly processed products like oils in which genetic modification cannot be detected because the DNA or protein has been destroyed.

This is opposed by Britain, which wants to keep the rules much as they are at present and only label products that can be scientifically tested for GM content.

The most GM-sceptic states like Italy, Denmark, Luxembourg and Greece want to extend labelling even to products such as milk and eggs that are produced from animals raised on GM feed.

Ministers hope to get agreement by the end of the year, but this will then need to be approved by the European Parliament.

Consumer groups estimate that at least 30,000 food products, such as crisps and cakes, contain derivatives of GM maize or soya in tiny quantities, and argue that they should be labelled as such.

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