Do you know what's in your food?

Following GMOs from the field to the fork

Feature story - 16 December, 2002
It would seem a easy choice. In most countriesIt would seem an easy choice. In most countries you can see on the label what is in the food you buy, how much sugar it contains or the amount of fat. When it comes to a contentious issue as genetically engineered (GE) ingredients it would seem like a good idea to offer the consumer even more detailed information and with this the right to choose non-GE food.

Do you want to know if GE ingredients are in your food?

This is certainly not in the mind of the GE industry who would like there to be no labels and sneak their products into the food chain on the quiet. However, important agreements to strengthen the already existing European labelling law were reached within the EU in the last two weeks, leading towards the implementation of the world's strictest legislation on labelling and traceability of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

After the political agreement on the labelling of GE food and feed, EU environment ministers last week also reached common ground on traceability of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) from the field to the fork. It looks like consumer interest is winning with strict rules obligating producers to indicate all GMOs which "have been used" in a shipment, and with this enabling the effective implementation of the new labelling obligations for all GE food and feed in Europe. This also allows monitoring of possible adverse effects of GMOs on human and animal health and the environment, and targeted recall in case risks related to particular GMOs are identified.

Together with the strengthened labelling regulation, which for the first time will also require the labelling of GE animal feed in the EU, these agreements will set high standards that will enable consumers and farmers to take the fundamental decision to choose and use non-GE products. However, there are still loopholes in the proposed rules that would allow exemptions for GE seeds below specific thresholds, and with this the contamination of non-GE seeds.

Before entering into force, there will be a final round of discussions in the European Parliament in spring 2003. Greenpeace trusts the European Parliament to insist on its position that no thresholds for the presence of unapproved GMOs should be allowed for any product, and that the presence of approved GMOs should be tolerated only below a 0.5 percent threshold.