GM Labelling Regime Unhelpful In US Row

Original Publication Date: 
6 February, 2003

EUOBSERVER / STRASBOURG - The EU's efforts to lift the moratorium on GM foods by establishing a strict labelling system for these products, is unlikely to be of any help in the current transatlantic dispute.

Although the EU might lift its moratorium on GM foods after euro-parliamentarians adopt regulations authorising and labelling GM products today (2 July), the US still appears to be determined to take the case to the World Trade Organisation.

'With no proven risk to human health from GM products the USA argues that such labelling will be a disguised form of trade protection,' UK liberal Chris Davies said.

The US has accused the EU of contributing to famine in Africa due to a 1999 ban by some EU states over GMOs.

Such claims have been heavily rebutted by the Commission and yesterday by the European Parliament President Pat Cox, who said the EU donates far more aid to developing countries than the US. 'We don't need to be lectured on humanitarian issues,' he said.

Consumers to choose With these new regulations which are set to be adopted by the European Parliament, millions of consumers will be able to choose themselves whether to buy GM or GM-free food.

But, critics say that this choice is likely to be made by the supermarkets or huge retailers themselves. Fearing consumer resistance to these products, they might choose not to supply them in the first place.

On the controversial issue of 'co-existence' between GM and non-GM crops, the Commission was asked to publish guidelines, which will be published later this month.

Open letter to Bush Green and European Free Alliance members in the European Parliament, sent a letter to US President Bush urging him to introduce mandatory labelling of GM foods in America. They also cited statistics which show that 93% of US citizens want mandatory labelling of GM foods, and 52% believe that genetically altered foods are unsafe.

'Unfortunately, Americans do not have the choice to either eat or avoid GM food. This is a choice that you should give them,' they said.