MEPs open the door to lifting of GMO moratorium; make labelling compulsory

The European Parliament adopted on 2 July the two legislative proposals concerning genetically modified (GM) food, giving a strong political momentum towards lifting the moratorium.

The key amendments adopted concerning the GM food and feed legislation include:

  • Labelling requirements: the amendment adopted would not require the labelling of foods that contain less than 0.9 per cent of authorised GMOs, which threshold MEPs would have initially liked to see set at 0.5 per cent;
  • Co-existence: measures would be taken to ensure the co-existence of GM and non-GM crops; the technical details of co-existence would be decided by means of the comitology procedure;
  • Seeds: food and feed that can also be used as seed would only be placed on the market if it has been authorised for all these uses;
  • Emergency measures: an adopted amendment would enable Member States to take emergency action themselves in the event of severe risk.

On traceability and labelling, MEPs adopted an amendment that pre-packaged products produced from GMOs should be labelled “This product is produced from GMOs”. Parliamentarians also agreed that the Commission should create a central register at Community level, which would contain all available sequencing information and reference material for GMOs authorised to be put into circulation in the Community.


Environment Commissioner Margot Wallströmhailed the adoption of the two legislative proposals by the Parliament: "It will reinforce our international credibility and will certainly help in building public confidence in new technologies."Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner David Byrnesaid "Europe will now have a comprehensive and transparent system of authorisation and labelling that can only enhance business and consumer confidence."

Friends of the Earth Europe(FoEE) welcomed some aspects of the GM votes, namely its provisions allowing Member States to take preventive measures against contamination and the fact that GM feed will now have to be labelled for the first time. At the same time, Friends of the Earth Europe complained firstly, that the threshold for GMO contamination of 0.9 per cent is too high, while current testing techniques can reliably detect GMO content low as 0.1 per cent; secondly, that the contamination of food and crops by unlicensed GM material will be allowed for 3 years; and thirdly, that Member States "may", rather than "shall", take action to prevent contamination of neighbouring farms. In addition, FoEE is calling for stricter provisions on liability to make biotech companies liable for any contamination or environmental problems.

EuropaBio, the European Association for Bioindustries, welcomed the adoption of the two new GMO laws as "the most broad ranging laws in the world". "The good news is that Parliament voted against the extreme amendments of the Environment Committee that in effect would ban genetic modification from being used in agriculture, and GM products from being offered to European consumers," said Simon Barber, Director at EuropaBio.

Euro Coop, the European Community of Consumer Cooperatives, regrets that the European Parliament missed the opportunity to legally oblige Member States to take co-existence measures at national level. "Today's agreement enshrines a pick and choose system, which is far from the EU harmonised legislation recommended by consumer and environmental NGOs", commented Euro Coop's Food Policy Officer Aude L'hirondel. Euro Coop fears the forthcoming lifting of the moratorium without more stringent measures on co-existence will mean the end of true consumer choice, leaving consumers to choose between "more or less GMOs" in the market.


The European Parliament, following the vote in Committee (see also,EURACTIV 23 May 2003), adopted on 2 July its position in second reading on two legislative proposals: the regulation concerning genetically modified (GM) food and feed, and on the regulation dealing with the traceability and labelling of GMOs.


The two legislative items will now be forwarded to the EU's Agriculture Council for final approval. The regulations may enter into force 20 days following their publication in the Official Journal.

Once this new legislation enters into force, it could bring with it the lifting of the moratorium on GM food authorisations over which the US launched a case against the EU in the World Trade Organisation in May 2003 (see also,

EURACTIV 14 May 2003).


Subscribe to our newsletters