5 June 2002
HOW THEY VOTED ON STRICTER GM LABELLING RULES
you can work out some of the good guys and the bad from this
BIOTECHNOLOGY: MEPS CALL FOR STRICTER GM LABELLING RULES
A coalition of Socialist, Green and Liberal MEPs voted in the Environment Committee on June 4 for stricter labelling rules on genetically-modified food and feed. They rejected the draft report prepared by Antonios Trakatellis (EPP, Greece) which sought to water down the original Commission proposal (COM(2001) 182) on labelling all foods produced from GMOs irrespective of whether there is DNA or protein of GM origin in the final product. The more stringent amendments were passed by 28 votes to 25. However, they endorsed a report by Karin Scheele's (PES, Austria) report which added eggs and milk to the list of products covered in the proposed food safety Regulation. Both proposals will now go to plenary session in July where it is expected there will be another tough debate. (AG)
Support for the Antonios Trakatellis's amendments hinged on the preferences of the five Liberal MEPs who sit on the committee and they were split down the middle. With the shadow rapporteur, Dirk Sterckx (ELDR, Belgium), absent, three Liberal parliamentarians allied with the Socialists. There was also division within the Socialist grouping with the British MEPs led by David Bowe voting for the Trakatellis report.
The Greek MEP argued that forcing every food and feed product to be labelled would create problems within the World Trade Organisation (WTO) since there was no way to control third country imports. It would therefore lead to fraud where consumers would pay higher prices for similar products such as sugar from GM beet and non-GM beet. He wanted products produced from GMOs but not containing GMO material to have no traceability and labelling requirements. Vitamin C, citric acid and maize oil are some of the processed products covered under this heading.
The Greens spokeswoman on the Commission's proposals on GM food and feed, Jill Evans (Greens/EFA, UK) welcomed the vote. "I am delighted that the Environment Committee followed our group's key demands which will require mandatory labelling for GM products irrespective of whether they can be identified by analytical methods or not", she said.
But an EPP official underlined that the MEPs had gone against the Opinions of the Agriculture, Legal Affairs and Industry Committees who had all endorsed Mr Trakatellis's draft report. He said he was not surprised by the result given that the Environment Committee was "special" with a very strong Green element. Antonios Trakatellis has refused to withdraw his report and is counting on the support of EPP-ED colleagues to get his amendments through in plenary.
The Greek MEP's draft report was based on the proposed Commission Regulation concerning traceability and labelling of genetically-modified organisms and traceability of food and feed products produced from genetically-modified organisms. But parliamentarians also debated and adopted most of the amendments contained in a second report by Karin Scheele (PES, Austria) on the draft Regulation on genetically modified food and feed (COM(2001) 0173).
The rapporteur broadly welcomed the scope of the Commission proposal which extends the current Community legislation to feed produced from GMOs. But she also wanted meat, milk and eggs coming from animals fed with GM feed to be included and this was agreed by the MEPs. Mrs Scheele was also unhappy with the EU executive's suggestion of a one per cent threshold for the presence of unauthorised GMOs in food and feed and her call for it to be scrapped was adopted by the Environment Committee.
Effectively there are three different systems for the presence of GMOs in food and feed based on the amendments - the one per cent threshold for food will be evaluated by a scientific committee, the level is set at 0.5% for processed products and there is a requirement for the lowest possible level in feed. The Commission proposal for centralising authorisation of GMOs with the European Food Safety Authority was also watered down to keep a strong role at national level for specialised agencies. Mrs Scheele's justification here was that the Directive on release of GMOs (2001/18/EC) is only due to enter into force in the Autumn. She did not see the point in changing it and believes the new Commission proposal should complement it.
Both the reports adopted will go to plenary session in July for a first reading under co-decision procedure. The vote will be very tight on whether the amendments are passed or not given that there was a clear but small majority in the Environment Committee for tightening the legislation.
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