MEPs' express concern over GM food labels

Environment committee blasts Commission "lack of foresight" over labelling rules

The European Commission has failed to foresee the consequences of proposed rules on labelling foods containing genetically modified (GM) ingredients for accidental contamination, according to the chair of the European Parliament's influential environment committee. At the end of a committee question and answer session held today in Strasbourg with the European Commissioner responsible for the regulation, Erkki Liikanen, chairwoman Caroline Jackson said it was "incredible" that the commissioner "hasn't thought through [the regulation] in the slightest". Ms Jackson was interpreting MEPs' fears over the move, agreed last month (ENDS Daily 21 October), which will force food producers to label their products if they cannot guarantee that each of the ingredients contains less than a 1% level of contamination by GM material. Deputies said the agreed contamination threshold was too high, that it would lead to inconsistent and confusing labelling, and that it would impose a huge administrative burden on food assessment agencies. Last month, the Parliament's president Nicole Fontaine asked Commission president Romano Prodi to postpone the regulation until MEPs had given their opinion on it. Although the Parliament is sidelined on the issue under EU rules, commissioner Liikanen promised to review the measure in the light of the Parliament's conclusions, though he stressed that a contamination threshold lower than 0.1% was not technically feasible. The committee will now propose changes to the regulation by the end of the year for consideration by the full Parliament.

Correction, 19/11/99
In the above article we incorrectly quoted EU commissioner Erkii Liikanen as telling MEPs that the minimum level of genetically modified food detectable was 0.1%. Mr Liikanen in fact said the technical minimum was 1%.Follow Up:
European Parliament, tel: +32 2 284 2111.

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