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From December 04, 2002

European Union Ministers Agree on New Thresholds for GM Food, Feed

After months of stormy debate, the 15 ministers finally buried the hatchet and agreed on a level of 0.9 percent for labeling of all food and feed containing GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) material, according to Reuters News Service. Below this, no labeling requirement would be applied. They also agreed on a threshold for accidental traces of unauthorized GMOs already assessed as risk-free at 0.5 percent in food and feed for a three-year transitional period. However, the lowest detectable level of accidental GMO presence is currently 0.1 percent. The same threshold would apply to authorized GMOs but with no transitional period.

The revised draft law relates to the labeling of all foods produced from GMOs irrespective of whether there is DNA or protein of GM origin in the final product, such as soybean oil. All GM feed would be covered by the law, for the first time.

GM food and animal feed has been allowed in the EU since 1996, but only a fraction of it has to be labeled under current legislation. For GM animal feed, labels are not required at all.

Europe's politicians have been extremely wary about endorsing GMO material in conventional food without special safeguards due to skepticism in many EU states about modern farming methods - especially the use of GM products, which have been dubbed "Frankenstein foods" by concerned
consumers.

The draft legislation now returns for a further reading in the European Parliament, where a hot debate can be expected as the assembly has already clearly stated it wants stricter labeling for GMOs than the ministers have been proposing.

Lorenzo Consoli, EU policy advisor exclaims, "the major result is we will have labeling of feed, which we didn't have before. We will have the most comprehensive labeling system for GM products: food, feed and derivatives. It will be the model to follow."

Candidates for compulsory labeling, if they came from GM crops, would include soymeal, corn gluten and refined products such as sugar and starch where DNA cannot be traced.

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For more information on GMOs visit Beyond Pesticides Genetic Engineering web page.