GM labelling threshold too high

July 3, 2003, Soil Association: Laws allowing GM foods to be sold in Europe, for the first time in five years, have been passed by the European Parliament, and could be in force as soon as Autumn. The changes require that food, derivatives (such as sugar and oil) and animal feed containing more than 0.9 per cent genetically modified content are labelled ‘This product is produced from GMOs’ (genetically modified organisms). Meat or dairy products from animals fed GM feed do not have be labelled.

Patrick Holden, director of the Soil Association, said, "Food with less than 0.9 per cent GM content won’t have to be labelled so it will be impossible for the public to be sure that they are buying products uncontaminated by GMOs. This threshold is much too high as GM content of 0.1 per cent can be detected. The Government, represented by the Food Standards Agency, has let down the public as the UK was the only country pushing for higher thresholds for the labelling of GM products.

"We are very disappointed that the legislation does not cover meat or dairy products from animals that have been fed on GM feed.

"Despite this progress the EU moratorium on approving new GM foods should continue until strict liability provisions are in place to ensure that the biotechnology industry pays for any contamination or other negative impacts, as a result of GMOs. Currently, the companies want the taxpayer to cover such costs, which is completely unacceptable.

"The requirements to introduce traceability at every stage of the food chain does at least mean that the Government can monitor the population for unexpected health effects and can recall GM products if problems are identified.

"This legislation also means that produce containing GMOs as an ingredient will in practice have to be treated as a separate product by the food industry. Our understanding is that companies will not want to deal with two versions of the same product, so we are hoping that most companies will chose to stock only the non-GM version.

"To implement the legislation, the biotechnology industry must co-operate in making identification data and sample material available for each GMO, at the moment, they are not making the information publicly available. This data is needed so that different GMOs allowed on the market, or that have entered accidentally through contamination, can be tested for.

"The best way to give consumers confidence that their food is GM-free is to ensure that no GM crops are grown in the UK."