European consumers win the right to choose. All GMO food and feed will be labelled.
The EU Agriculture Council's new regulations for genetically
modified food and feed are the world's strictest and most
comprehensive regulations for labeling of GM food and feed. For the
first time, GM feed will be labeled in the European Union. When the
legislation comes into force, no GM product will be allowed
unlabelled into the EU market.
All GM food and food ingredients, including highly processed
derivatives such as sugar, refined oil and starch, produced from
genetically modified organisms, will have to be clearly labeled.
Another separate new regulation will set up a thorough
'traceability' system in order to follow food and food ingredients
consisting of, containing or produced from GMOs across all stages
of the food processing and distribution chain through to the final
This decision proves that consumers, when asserting their
rights, can win against the most powerful corporate lobbies. The
most important practical effect of this new regulation is that no
GMOs will be able to enter the European market unlabelled.
This sends a strong message to commodity exporting nations such
as the US, Canada, Argentina and Brazil which have resisted
mandatory labeling. The times when you could sneak millions of
tonnes of GM soybeans and maize unlabelled into the European food
chain are definitely over.
But it is not all good news.
A major concern remains. The new regulation does not contain
adequate safeguards that would allow EU member countries to enact
national bans on approved GM products where there are reasons to
consider that there are possible risks for health or the
environment. This kind of safeguard exists in the former and
current EU legislation on GMOs and must be included also in the new
GM Food and Feed Regulation.
However, the UK government's attempt to undermine the GMO
labeling for products derived from GMOs insisting that the GMOs
must be traceable in the final product was definitively defeated.
All food and feed ingredients will have to be labeled, if they are
produced from GMOs whether they are traceable in the final product
The threshold for the labelling of GE food and feed was set at
regrettably not as low as 0.5 percent that the European
Parliament requested earlier this year. However, the fact that it
will be below 1 percent consequently will also force a much needed
re-assessment of the EU Commission proposal on GE contamination of
seeds. It will also be possible to establish lower thresholds
through a technical procedure for foods containing or consisting of
These could include existing EU legislation agreed in 1997
requiring labelling of some GE foods. The US has already lost EU
markets for these products which required to be labelled, including
US corn exports to Europe which dropped from $305 million in 1996
to $2 million in 2001.
The council also rejected a Danish proposal aiming at imposing
labeling of animal products produced with GM feed, such as meat,
milk and eggs, and urged producers and retailers to voluntarily
inform the consumers about whether GE feed has been used, through
the appropriate labeling on the final product.
Yet the council's decision is a great victory for consumers in
the European Union and sets a high standard that other consumers
around the world can hold up as and example for their right to