MEPs toughen stance on GMO traceability and labelling

On 22 May, the Environment Committee voted in favour of stricter rules to prevent the spread of genetically modified crops into fields with conventional and organic varieties.

The EU has argued it would need to put in place legislation to protect consumer choice, whose important pillar is the legislation on traceability and labelling of GMOs. The Environment Committee endorsed a position, which would mandate the labelling of all food and feed with more than 0.5 per cent of GMO content. If GMOs are authorised to be grown in Europe on a commercial scale, additional legislation would need to be passed to ensure that non-GM farmers are protected, which goes further than the Commission’s recommendation proposing voluntary guidelines on coexistence. The Committee rejected proposals, which would allow the presence of up to 0.5 of unauthorised GMOs in food and animal feed.


Friends of the Earth Europewelcomed the Environment Committee vote, which will enable better consumer choice and action to protect non-GMO and organic farmers from contamination. "This is a clear political signal the European Commission cannot deny. Voluntary guidelines are just not enough to secure GM free food. Legally binding rules are needed to protect farming and consumers from GMO contamination", said Geert Ritsema of Friend of the Earth Europe.

Europabio, the European Association for Bioindustries, has expressed concern that if the Committee's position is carried in plenary, the timetable set for fast removal of the authorisation ban would be delayed.

BEUC, the European Consumers' Organisation, sent an open letter to the U.S. Ambassador to the EU on the WTO challenge to the current moratorium on GMOs in the EU, which it sees as an attempt by the U.S. trying to "force the EU to follow the same policies on GMOs that are followed elsewhere".

Friends of the Earth Internationalpublished a report on 23 May, entitledPlaying with Hunger, which is a compilation of case studies related to the shipment of food aid by the U.S. to developing countries. "Food aid is being used, particularly by the U.S., as a marketing tool to capture new markets. (...) There is a need for stricter regulation of food aid to prevent it from being used as a way to open up new markets for GM products", said Ricardo Navarro, Salvadorean chairman of Friends of the Earth International.


The U.S. announced on 13 May that together with Argentina, Canada and Egypt, it would challenge the EU's five-year de facto moratorium on biotech foods and crops in the World Trade Organisation (WTO). (see alsoEURACTIV, 14 May 2003) In this suit, the EU will have to prove that it has "sufficient scientific evidence" for the de facto moratorium and that its approval procedures operate without "undue delay". If it fails to do so, the measure will be seen as a barrier to trade.

The decision by the U.S. to launch a WTO case came only days after the multilateral trade body had authorised the EU to apply tariffs against the U.S. of up to 4 billion U.S. dollars in the so-called "FSC-case". The U.S. has also accused the EU of impeding the global use of a biotechnology that, in their view, could be of great benefit to farmers and consumers around the world.


  • The Agriculture Council will discuss the status of this legislation at their meeting on 26-27 May.
  • The full parliament will vote on the legislative proposal in July 2003.
  • The new legislation could be in force before the end of 2003.


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