Science, Health and Safety in the EU July02

The European Parliament vote in Strasbourg approved stringent requirements for manufacturers with respect to declarations of GM ingredients in products, including food and beverages.

The Regulations are presented in the amended Reports passed: GM Food and Feed (Scheele report) and GM Labelling and Traceability (Trakatellis report). The socialist MEPs, supported by Liberals and the Greens, have voted in favour of a threshold of maximum 0.5% for GM ingredients. This means that products containing GM ingredients in excess of 0.5% will need a label with appropriate declaration.

Mr. Khanbhai said: "Pollination in the farming environment and some mixing in the storage, distribution and processing stages will be inevitable, so these low levels are impossible to achieve. Organic food labelling allows a threshold of 5%. An unrealistic threshold for GM ingredients in products will force manufacturers to take a precautionary line and declare all their products with a meaningless phrase: "May contain GM ingredients". This will protect manufacturers against claims but it will seriously limit consumer assessment and choice of products and do nothing for safety for those who are concerned."

Mr. Khanbhai added: "Failure to recognise that “adventitiously present” trace levels of GM products assessed as safe by European Scientific Committees, and approved and commercialised in third countries, might be adventitiously present in seed and commodity in the EU. A de facto moratorium in the EU will allow the rest of the world to evaluate, authorise, and cultivate new products that are bringing significant environmental and economic benefits."

Parliament also decided to add another layer of red tape by voting for amendments that undermine the “one door one key” approach proposed by the Commission. Such a procedure would provide excellence in safety assessment and a uniform and transparent Community procedure for all applications – a regulatory base that would provide a higher level of confidence for European citizens.

The plenary supported the Commission’s proposal to label GM derived products that are identical to their non-GM counterparts. Since no DNA or novel protein of GMO-origin is present in these groups of products, no scientific verification is possible and the system will be open to fraud.

"The ability of Green Biotech to contribute to the goal of Europe becoming the world's most competitive knowledge-based economy, as set out in the "Life Sciences and Biotechnology Action Plan" is now in question. It is crucial that the Council of Ministers act to ensure that there is a future for green biotechnology in Europe." said Mr Khanbhai.