IBEC is coordinating discussions with retailers, manufacturers and government departments to finalise an acceptable labelling scheme. IBEC does not represent the large retailers but said it was important that they be included in the discussions. Consumers are represented in the discussions by the Director of Consumer Affairs, a government body.
Labelling of GM foods is being introduced by the food industry in several European countries, including the Netherlands, France, the UK, Germany and Belgium.
Two alternative labels are being discussed in Ireland: "contains genetically modified foods" or "produced with genetically modified foods." The labels would apply to all foods containing soya, which European countries import in large quantities from the USA, where genetically modified plants are becoming widely used.
There will be no testing of foods in Ireland for the presence of modified soya. Kathryn Raleigh of IBEC said: "If you are sourcing soya from the USA, you have to assume that it contains GMO soya." But, environmental groups have criticised the Irish labelling proposals, saying that modified and non-modified soya beans should be segregated, enabling labelling also of products that do not contain modified soya.
"Labelling without segregation is meaningless," says Quentin Gargan of campaign group Genetic Concern. "If only 15% of US soya is GMO [genetically modified organisms], it's wrong to say that all products with soya ingredients contain GMOs. It's making it seem that there's a lot more GMO than there is and it doesn't provide consumers with a choice."
"There is lots of non-GMO soya available," Mr Gargan continued. "There's a whole market for non-GMO soya in Rotterdam, which pays producers a small premium to keep their crops GMO-free. Virtually all soya milk makers use this segregated, non-GMO soya."
IBEC, tel: +353 1 660 1011; Genetic Concern +353 1 670 5606.
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