Tougher labelling rules for GMOs

May 26, 2003

Brussels, 23 May 2003

Against a backcloth of tense trade relations with the United States, Parliament's Environment Committee today voiced reservations about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food and animal feed.

In a report by Karin SCHEELE (PES, A) adopted by 31 votes to 21, the committee is seeking to reduce the thresholds for adventitious or technically unavoidable contamination in products which are theoretically free of GMOs but may run the risk of accidental contamination: the Council in its common position suggested a limit of 0.9% but MEPs want to reduce this tolerance threshold to 0.5%. A lively debate preceded the vote. Unlike the majority of MEPs, the EPP-ED group and the Commission representative argued that a 0.5% threshold would be impossible to observe. A further trial of strength over this point can be expected when the report comes up in plenary in July.

Most members of the committee - against the opposition once again of the EPP-ED and the Commission - also supported stricter measures against accidents which might threaten seeds and ecosystems.

A third bone of contention was products - such as whisky - whose manufacturing process began before the regulation enters into force. An amendment tabled by the Green/EFA group, calling for these products to be exempted from the new labelling rules for only one year, was rejected by one vote.

The committee also adopted a report by Antonios TRAKATELLIS (EPP-ED, GR) on the traceability of GMOs. With the Council's common position having accepted half Parliament's first-reading amendments entirely or in part, the committee decided to tighten up the traceability requirements only moderately. MEPs are opposed to the Council's wish to allow precise descriptions of mixtures of GMOs in a single product to be replaced by a "declaration of use" by the operator.

Pre-packaged products produced from GMOs should, say MEPs, be described as such, using the words "This product is produced from GMOs" on the label and also as part of any display or advertising.

In view of the narrow majorities at Parliament's first reading, the difficulty of reaching a common position in Council and the concessions already gained, Mr Trakatellis urged MEPs to moderate their demands at this second-reading stage.22.05.2003 Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Consumer Protection       In the chair: Caroline JACKSON (EPP-ED, UK)       Procedure: Co-decision, second reading       Plenary vote: July, Strasbourg

Press enquiries:Manfred Kohler - tel. (32-2) 28 41329e-mail:

European Parliament News Report 0523

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