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
"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
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
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.