ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

29 November 2002


News Update From The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods

Dear News Update Subscribers,

European Union (EU) farm ministers came to an agreement over the labeling of genetically engineered foods on Thursday. All food and feed containing genetically engineered materials at a level of 0.9 percent or higher would be required to be labeled.

Now the EU farm ministers' proposal goes back to the European Parliament for consideration, which has previously supported even tougher lower levels than 0.9 percent.

Posted below are four articles that discuss the recent agreement reached by the farm ministers. The first article is from Reuters and titled "EU ministers agree new thresholds on GM food, feed." The second brief article from Associated Press is titled "EU Ministers Agree on Biofood Labeling." The third article is from EU Business out of Brussels and titled "EU reaches deal on labelling of foods containing GMOs." The final item is a press release from the office of the EU Presidency in Denmark titled "GMO food and feed: agreement on new rules for labelling and authorisation."

Environmetalists seem generally pleased with the new agreement, especially that animal feed is included in the labeling requirements. We can assume that many U.S. biotech companies and other parties interested in exporting genetically engineered foods to Europe will not be pleased with the agreement.

Craig Winters
Executive Director
The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods

The Campaign
PO Box 55699
Seattle, WA 98155
Tel: 425-771-4049
Fax: 603-825-5841
Web Site:

Mission Statement: "To create a national grassroots consumer campaign for the purpose of lobbying Congress and the President to pass legislation that will require the labeling of genetically engineered foods in the United States."


EU ministers agree new thresholds on GM food, feed

28 Nov 2002 20:46
By Jeremy Smith

BRUSSELS, Nov 28 (Reuters) - The European Union could see tough new labelling rules for genetically modified (GM) food and animal feed next year after EU farm ministers thrashed out a compromise deal on Thursday on thresholds for the hi-tech crops.

After months of stormy debate, the 15 ministers finally buried the hatchet and agreed on a level of 0.9 percent for labelling of all food and feed containing GMO (GM organism) material. Below this, no labelling requirement would be applied.

The revised draft law relates to the labelling of all foods produced from GMOs irrespective of whether there is DNA or protein of GM origin in the final product, such as soybean oil. All GM feed would be covered by the law, for the first time.

They also agreed on a threshold for accidental traces of unauthorised GMOs already assessed as risk-free at 0.5 percent in food and feed for a three-year transitional period. The same threshold would apply to authorised GMOs but with no transition.

"This new law further ensures consumer choice through labelling of GMO derived food and also provides the farmer with information," said David Byrne, EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection.

"This is a good day for consumers and consumer protection: to put in place a solid piece of legislation and enable consumers to choose whether they want to consume GM food or not," he said, following a vote by the farm ministers. The main states voting against were Luxembourg, Britain and Austria.

GM food and animal feed has been allowed in the EU since 1996, but only a fraction of it has to be labelled under current legislation. For GM animal feed, labels are not required at all.

By tightening criteria for the presence of GMO material in food and feed, the European Commission hopes to persuade GM-sceptic member states not to block any new applications to authorise new GM products -- and pave the way to lift an effective moratorium on GM crops in place since June 1999.

Since this time, EU farmers have been unable to grow or sell most of the GM crops commonly used in the United States after a blocking minority of member states said they would oppose any new permits, pending tougher regulations.

The updated legislation would apply to non-authorised GMOs that have already won a favourable assessment by EU scientists: some 11 products, including several bio-engineered U.S. maize types, that have been denied EU access due to the moratorium.


Despite the long-awaited compromise deal brokered by current EU presidents Denmark, which breaks months of deadlock between member states, the tough talking on how far to permit the presence of GMOs in food and feed is far from over.

The draft legislation now returns for a further reading in the European Parliament, where a hot debate can be expected as the assembly has already clearly stated that it wants stricter labelling for GMOs than the ministers have been proposing.

Europe's politicians have been extremely wary about endorsing GMO material in conventional food without special safeguards due to scepticism in many EU states about modern farming methods -- especially the use of GM products, which have been dubbed "Frankenstein foods" by concerned consumers.

Candidates for compulsory labelling, if they came from GM crops, would include soymeal, corn gluten and refined products such as sugar and starch where DNA cannot be traced.


Environmental campaigners say the threshold for accidental presence of GMO material aims to appease U.S. producers who may have a degree of cross-contamination in their crops from other GMOs grown alongside that have not been favourably assessed.  They had also urged the farm ministers to extend the mandatory labelling regime to all GMO food products and to GMO animal feed, with the threshold for accidental presence fixed at the lowest detectable level -- currently 0.1 percent.

"Adventitious (accidental) presence is a problem for U.S. farmers, even if they try to avoid it," said Lorenzo Consoli, EU policy advisor at international environmental group Greenpeace.

"But the major result is we will have labelling of feed, which we didn't have before. We will have the most comprehensive labelling system for GM products: food, feed and derivatives. It will be the model to follow," he told Reuters.

EU Ministers Agree on Biofood Labeling

.c The Associated Press

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

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

For most of Thursday, seven EU nations were holding out for a 0.5 percent threshold and the rest seeking 1 percent.

In the end, the opposition of Britain, which sought a one-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.

Now, the ministerial agreement 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 the 4-year-old moratorium on approving new genetically modified foods and animal feed.

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

U.S. producers consider even a 1 percent threshold unworkable, noting that Japan, which already has similar legislation, set it at 5 percent.
11/28/02 17:34 EST


EU reaches deal on labelling of foods containing GMOs

EUbusiness, 28th November 2002

BRUSSELS, Nov 28 (AFP) - EU farm ministers Thursday agreed new rules to label food containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which have been embraced by the United States but remain deeply suspect in Europe.

With public passions running high over so-called "Frankenstein foods", the ministers spent a day of tough haggling before agreeing a compromise accord put forward by the European Union's Danish presidency.

The agreement could set the stage for lifting a ban on GMOs in place in seven EU countries since 1999.

A majority of ministers accepted that food or animal feed containing more than 0.9 percent of genetically altered ingredients should be automatically labelled.

They also agreed to a maximum permissible level of 0.5 percent for food and feed that accidentally contains unauthorised GMOs.

"We have a qualified majority for our proposal," Danish Agriculture Minister Mariann Fischer Boel said, praising the "bravery" of her colleagues.

The Danish presidency had proposed labelling food which contains more than one percent of GMOs, and a 0.5 percent threshold for the accidental level.

The Danes eventually brought France, Germany and Italy -- which all wanted much tighter restrictions for labelling -- on side.

Britain, however, voted against, arguing the agreement was too restrictive. But under the qualified majority rule, it was unable to veto the accord.

A British diplomat said that with current technology, it was "simply not possible" to test GMO levels under 1.0 percent.

Fischer Boel had earlier warned of the failure to reach an accord.

"It is crucial that we do adopt a proposal because we have now a situation where we have no labelling of foodstuffs and feed," she told the meeting. An agreement "would be a major step in the right direction".

The EU last month agreed new guidelines for the eventual cultivation of GMO crops, seen as a preliminary step to lifting the ban in the seven nations -- Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, Italy and Luxembourg.

But public disquiet about the technology is deeply entrenched.

Opinion polls by the European Commission suggest 94 percent of EU citizens want to have the right to choose between GM and naturally grown foods, with nearly 60 percent fearful that genetically engineered crops could damage the environment and affect human's health.

"European consumers have been denied proper information about GMOs in their food for too long," Friends of the Earth campaigner Adrian Bebb said.

"It is now time for a change. Ministers must give their backing to comprehensive new GM labelling rules," he said.

The EU agreement represented a rebuff to the European Parliament, which in July voted for the labelling of food to begin at 0.5 percent.

In the United States, the GMO industry has grown into a major player and US officials want a more relaxed approach from the Europeans.

The debate has turned nasty with Washington accusing the EU of being complicit in a brewing famine in southern Africa because of its GMO stance. Several affected countries including Zambia have refused US food aid that may contain GMOs.


GMO food and feed: agreement on new rules for labelling and authorisation
Date  :  28/11/2002
News item  :  EU Presidency press release
Policy area  :  Agriculture and Fisheries
After long and difficult negotiations EUs food- and agriculture ministers have reached a political agreement on the proposal for a regulation on GMO food and feed.

President of the Council, Danish minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries Mrs. Mariann Fischer Boel states: "With the political agreement on the proposal we have taken an important step towards offering consumers a real choice when it comes to GMOs. This is an important victory for the European consumers."

The proposal on which the Council has reached a political agreement will imply:

. For the first time, rules are introduced for the use and labelling of GMO-based feed. These rules will correspond to those that apply to GM food. This means marketing of GM feed will be subject to prior approval and that GMO-feed must be labelled

. Labelling will be required for food and feed produced on the basis of GMO material, even if GMOs cannot be identified in the final product, for example in Soya bean oil. The labelling requirement will not apply for adventitious presence of GMOs below a 0.9 % threshold

. In a transitory period a common threshold of 0.5 % will be set for the adventitious presence of non-authorised GMOs that have a positive scientific approval

. A decentralised authorisation procedure is introduced for new GMOs which offers consumers the same guarantees that the centralised procedure proposed by the Commission.

A final adoption of the GMO proposals requires a co-decision between the Council and the European Parliament. Therefore, the Council will now send its Common Position for new consideration by the European Parliament.

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