European Parliament paves the way for GMO-free Europe

Progressive legislation secured despite intensified US pressure

Press release - 2 July, 2003

Greenpeace inspecting food labeling in a european supermarket.

Hailed as a historic victory for consumers, the European Parliament today adopted the world's strictest and most comprehensive rules on the labelling of genetically modified organisms (GMO). Greenpeace praised the move, which is a practical example of EU resistance towards the intensified global campaign by the US Government and the genetic engineering (GE) industry to ease or abolish GMO legislation.

The new EU rules allow consumers to exercise their right to reject GMO food. All food and animal feed containing or deriving from GMOs will have to be clearly labelled, making it possible for farmers, food producers and consumers to continue avoid using or eating them.

"This vote is a slap in the face of the US Administration, which thought that by bullying and waving the WTO stick Europe, and eventually others, would swallow its GMO policy. In the real world, however, the EU has now adopted progressive legislation, which facilitates the market's desire to identify and exclude GE ingredients. This legislation is a model for other countries, including the US and Canada, where all such freedom and information is currently denied," said Eric Gall, Greenpeace EU Advisor on genetic engineering.

Since the first shipment of GE soy arrived in Europe in 1996, public opposition to genetically engineered food has been massive and shown no signs of decline. The world's largest GE soy producers, the US and Argentina, have since lost 3.3 million tonnes of soybean exports to Europe. The third largest soy producer, Brazil, has gained significantly from its GE-free status and has recently confirmed its determination to forbid planting of GMOs during the upcoming growing season. The market rejection continues to spread as atleast 37 countries worldwide now have restrictions on GMOs in place.

While the new rules are a significant step forward, Greenpeace regrets that loopholes remain in the legislation, most importantly regarding dairy and meat products from animals fed with GMOs, which still do not need to be labelled. Greenpeace is also concerned about the compromise amendment on the so-called 'co-existence' issue; while member states will have the right to impose mandatory measures nationally to ensure that conventional and organic agriculture will not be contaminated with GMOs, they are not obliged to take such measures.

Greenpeace also remains deeply concerned about continuing attempts by the GE industry to undermine EU legislation and create creeping contamination of conventional and organic products through the seeds. Although research shows that it is possible to ensure that seeds do not get contaminated above the 0.1% detection limit, the GE industry is pushing for thresholds as high as 0.7% in seeds in its attempt to undermine the new labelling regulations.

It would become harder for farmers to ensure their crops do not eventually exceed the 0.9% labelling threshold for food products.

Greenpeace calls on the EU member states to force the European Commission not to allow any genetic contamination in seeds and to propose legally binding legislation regarding anti-contamination measures, including making GE producers financially liable for potential losses incurred to conventional and organic farmers caused by genetic contamination.

"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," Eric Gall added.