Tougher EU GMO regulations mean consumers will know what they are eating.
The new rules are a slap in the face for the US, which is doing
its best to forcefeed the world genetically engineered food after
heavy lobbying from biotechnology multinationals like Monsanto. The
Bush government's bully-boy tactics include waving the WTO stick -
the US is challenging the EU's policy on GMOs under the WTO's
dispute resolution process, thereby also threatening to undermine
the Biosafety Protocol. The Biosafety Protocol is the first legally
binding global agreement that allows countries to reject GMOs.
The EU public has been massively opposed to genetically
engineered food, since the first shipment of GE soya arrived in
Europe in 1996. And it shows no signs of decline, with European
consumers consistently rejecting GE food. Until now though, EU
labelling rules had too many loopholes to really keep GE products
out of the shopping basket, since thousands of products, such as
oil, starch, and animal feed, didn't have to be labelled. This is
about to change.
Although the new rules are certainly a huge step forward, there
are still some significant loopholes. These include the fact that
EU consumers still won't be able to tell whether meat or dairy
products come from animals fed with GMOs.
Another concern is that EU member states will not be obliged to
act against the contamination of conventional or organic
agriculture with GMOs. They "may", rather than "shall" take action
to prevent neighbouring farms from being contaminated.
The GE industry is continuing to play around with exactly how
much contamination would require labelling. They want an upwardly
creeping threshold that will undermine the reliability of the label
and keep the doors open to further invasion of GE crops in the
future. We're therefore calling for measures to prevent any genetic
contamination in seeds, with legally binding anti-contamination
GE producers like Monsanto should also be financially liable for
potential losses that farmers suffer as a result of genetic
contamination. Seems reasonable, doesn't it? But in the US and
Canada, it's the producers who are suing the farmers! In once case,
Monsanto sued a Canadian farmer for failing to enter into an
agreement to pay royalties when pollen from a neighbouring farm
drifted and propagated on his rape (canola) field.
"Preventing genetic contamination should now be the number one
priority for the EU. If nothing is done to protect conventional and
organic crops from genetic contamination, the new labelling system
will actually be at risk of becoming useless after a few years
because it will be increasingly hard to secure GMO-free supplies,"
says Eric Gall, Greenpeace's EU Advisor on genetic engineering.
Consumer antipathy towards GMOs remains entrenched in the EU and
will determine the market. Only recently the British Retail
Consortium (BRC), representing 90% of high-street shops in the UK,
made clear that 'supermarkets are not going to give shelf space to
something that doesn't sell.' A recent Greenpeace survey among food
companies in Germany showed that 170 out of 216 companies asked for
produce without any GE ingredients. Only 18 companies do not want
to exclude GE food.