Consumers must receive better information on genetically modified organisms

October 14, 2002

Copenhagen, 11 Oct 2002

In recent years, use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has been much debated in Europe. In 2001, the European Commission proposed a new set of rules on how genetically modified organisms and food and feed products made from genetically modified organisms should be traced and labelled.

This new set of rules is to supplement Directive No. 2001/18/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the deliberate release of genetically modified organisms into the environment.

- The new rules are to ensure three important things. Firstly, consumers must be guaranteed freedom of choice on the basis of credible and reliable labelling of products which contain genetically modified organisms. Secondly, it must be possible to trace use of genetically modified organisms at all levels of the production chain, thereby facilitating monitoring in order to safeguard human health and the environment. Thirdly, it must be possible to withdraw products from the market if any adverse effects manifest themselves. The Danish EU Presidency hopes that agreement on a set of rules ensuring these three things can be reached at the Council meeting on 17 October, and is working towards this goal, states the Danish Minister for the Environment, Hans Christian Schmidt.

Among other things, the new rules mean that genetically engineered products must carry a label indicating that they contain or are made from genetically modified organisms. This information must follow the product and be communicated throughout all marketing links, including to end users. The new rules also mean that the EU must develop a system in which each genetically modified organism is given a code in the form of numbers and/or letters - a so-called unique code.

One of the issues to be addressed by the Council (Environment) is threshold values. In its original proposal, the Commission suggests that we accept a threshold value of contents of up to 1% GMO in a given product before any requirements on traceability or labelling apply. This threshold value is to apply to approved and non-approved genetically modified organisms alike. However, non-approved genetically modified organisms must have obtained a positive risk assessment from an EU scientific committee. Several Member States have proposed stricter threshold values. At the Council meeting, the Danish EU Presidency must work to achieve agreement on a compromise.

- Disagreement between the various countries still remains. But I hope it will prove possible to arrive at a common position at the Council, says Hans Christian Schmidt.

Just before the proposal for new rules is addressed by the Council (Environment), the Council (Agriculture & Fisheries) will consider a parallel proposal on approval and labelling of genetically modified food and feed products. The two proposals have been made by the Commission to the two Councils as an overall "GMO Package", which is to ensure new, common rules on this issue within all EU countries.

Further information: The Ministry of the Environment,
Deputy Director General John Bæk Sørensen,
tel. +45 4032 7442, e-mail

Danish Presidency Website

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