New UN biotech standards could strengthen EU’s stance on GMOs

The UN’s food standards agency adopted a set of norms on 1 July that could justify the EU’s position on GMOs vis-à-vis the US in the World Trade Organisation.

The Codex Alimentarius Commission, the UN's food standards agency, adopted three sets of standards on 1 July regarding the safety of genetically modified (GM) food. Codex is a joint Commission of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), in charge of setting food safety and agricultural trade standards.

The newly approved standards cover the safety assessment of GM food plants, product tracing, transfer of genes from commonly allergenic foods, as well as an advice against using antibiotic resistance marker genes in GMOs that create resistance to "clinically used" antibiotics.

Codex standards are significant as they provide legal bases for trade disputes. The new set of biotechnology standards may have an important implication on the US challenge against the EU concerning GM food in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) (see also

EURACTIV 14 May 2003).

Consumers International, representing more than 250 organisation in 110 countries, believes the Codex standards strengthen the EU's legislative efforts in this area. "These documents provide a legal basis under WTO rules for the EU's strong safety regulations for GMOs," said Michael Hansen, representative of Consumers International at the Codex meeting.


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