ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network
29 November 2002


1.EU farm ministers reach deal on biofood labeling
2.GM labelling in Canada "just a matter of time"


1.EU farm ministers reach deal on biofood labeling

Friday, November 29, 2002  07:08
By PAUL AMES, The Associated Press

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) - European Union agriculture ministers clinched a breakthrough to end months of dispute over the labeling of genetically modified food.

The 15 ministers agreed by a majority decision Thursday that food or animal feed can include 0.9 percent of biotech material before it has to be labeled as containing genetically modified organisms.

"We have taken an important step toward offering consumers a real choice when it comes to GMOs," said Danish Agriculture Minister Marian Fischer Boel, who chaired the talks.

For most of Thursday, seven EU nations held out for a 0.5 percent threshold while the rest sought 1 percent.

In the end, the opposition of Britain, which sought a 1 percent threshold, and Luxembourg and Austria, which wanted more stringent limits, could not stop the measure from being approved.
"This is a major step forward for consumers," said German Consumer Minister Renate Kuenast.

The ministerial agreement now goes back for approval to the European Parliament, which has previously pushed for the lower limits of genetically modified food content.

Failure to reach agreement could trigger a trade dispute with the United States, which is considering taking the EU to the World Trade Organization unless it lifts a four-year-old moratorium on approving new genetically modified foods and animal feed.

The EU is reluctant to do so without an agreement on labeling.

Washington has warned its patience is wearing thin. U.S. officials have said the ban costs their corn growers alone some US$200 million a year in lost exports.

U.S. producers are unlikely to be happy with the compromise reached Thursday. They consider even a 1 percent threshold unworkable, noting that Japan, which already has similar legislation, set it at 5 percent.

However, the EU agreement was welcomed by the environmental campaign group Greenpeace, which said it would give Europe the world's strictest regulations on biotech food labeling.

"This will send a strong message to commodity exporting nations such as the USA, Canada, Argentina and Brazil," said Lorenzo Consoli, Greenpeace adviser on GMOs. "The times when you could sneak millions of tons of GM soybeans and maize unlabeled into the food chain are definitely over."

Following a series of food scandals, the European public has been wary about the introduction of biotech food and consumer groups have demanded clear labeling.


2.Labelling bill misses automatic vote rule

Thursday November 28, 2002
By Barry Wilson
Ottawa bureau

When Toronto Liberal MP and former environment minister Charles Caccia presented to Parliament the latest version of his private member's bill on mandatory labelling of genetically modified foods last month, he said it is just a matter of time until mandatory labelling is approved.

Politicians on Parliament Hill say that time almost arrived far sooner than Caccia imagined.

If not for a House of Commons decision that at first looked like good news for Caccia but now is seen as bad news, his bill could have come up for a parliamentary vote sometime next year. MPs in both government and opposition say the next vote on the issue could be too close to call.

Instead, it will be debated for one hour in December and then disappear without a vote.

It happened because Caccia's latest proposal to approve mandatory GM labelling in principle, introduced in early October, was looked at by a committee of MPs that determines the status of private member's bills. The bill was designated eligible for debate but not for a vote.

It was assigned an hour of debate in early December.

Two weeks ago, to the surprise of many, the government agreed to a proposal that in future, all private member's bills and motions debated in the House will be subject to a vote. It applies to all bills selected after January.

A year ago, an earlier version of Caccia's bill was defeated 126-91 but only after a fierce and time-consuming lobby by agriculture and food manufacturing groups and the biotechnology industry, as well as some heavy arm-twisting by Liberal leaders to keep MPs in line.

One of the major inducements to vote against the bill - a promise that the health committee would conduct a thorough study on the issue - came to little when the committee dropped the issue last autumn without being close to making recommendations or coming to conclusions.

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