Canada to label some genetically modified food

WINNIPEG, Manitoba, September 9, 2003 -- CropChoice news -- Reuters, 09/08/03 via Agnet: After spending thousands of hours over four years discussing how best to label foods that contain genetically modified ingredients, a Canadian committee was cited as saying on Monday it has agreed on voluntary rules, but the standards won't be made public before they have been approved by the Canadian General Standards Board, which could take months.

Nora Mishikawa of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency was quoted as saying, "What they're saying is that, at this point in time, it's at a stage where they feel consensus is reached."

Jeanne Cruikshank of the Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors, who has been part of the committee since it began in 1999, was cited as saying that Canadian food makers will not be forced to indicate whether or not their products contain GM ingredients, but if they want to make claims on the subject, they have to be able to prove them, adding, "I think it would be incorrect to think that suddenly there's going to be a proliferation of labels, but when there are labels, you can know that they are truthful, and they are based on some consistent set of rules."

The stories say that the rules are controversial in part because food containing less than 5 percent GM content can have a label stating it does not contain GM material.

Cruikshank was further quoted as saying, "It is more likely the 'does not contain' products that are going to be labeled first, because we can do those with the most accuracy."

The stories note that activists who oppose GM food slammed the voluntary labeling scheme, noting many consumer groups dropped out of the process because they believe food makers won't have an incentive to label food that contains GM ingredients.

Patrick Venditti of Greenpeace, a group that boycotted the process because it wanted mandatory labels, was quoted as saying, "When they say they have consensus, they're really saying they have consensus between industry and government."