Brussels, December 10, 2002 – European Environment Ministers have yesterday evening decided that they want to strengthen the rules for the traceability of GMOs in food and animal feed. The decision improves the possibilities to monitor potential adverse effects of GMOs on health and the environment and makes it easier to recall products in case risks related to particular GMOs were identified. The Ministers also decided to extend the regime of mandatory labelling of food and animal feed products derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs). This decision will make it easier for consumers to avoid food containing GM ingredients.

Friends of the Earth Europe is broadly supportive of the Ministers decision, but regrets that the Ministers have allowed a 0.5 per cent threshold for the contamination of food products by unauthorised GM ingredients for a period of three years.

Friends of the Earth’s GMO Campaign Coordinator, Geert Ritsema, said:

“Plans to allow unlicensed GM ingredients into the European food chain are completely outrageous. Consumers don’t even want licensed GM ingredients in their food, which is why the GM labelling rules are being tightened. They will be understandably angry if their politicians allow ingredients that have not even been approved.”

Friends of the Earth will now call upon the European Parliament –that will again vote on GMO labelling in the beginning of next year- to reject the plan to allow unlicensed GMOs. In July 2002 -when the Parliament discussed GM labelling for the first time- a large majority of MEP’s has already voted for zero-tolerance with regard to unauthorised GMOs.

How did the Ministers vote ?

Yesterday evening the Environment Ministers –with a great majority and only opposed by the UK, The Netherlands, Luxemburg and Finland- strengthened the traceability rules for GMOs. Instead of a documentation system that only says “may contain GMOs” (as proposed by the European Commission), the Ministers decided that operators in the food and feed chain will have to provide other operators a list of unique identifiers of all GMOs that have been used. This would make it much easier to recall products in case of a risk related to a specific GMO and to monitor potential adverse impacts of specific GMOs on human health and the environment.

Also the Environment Ministers have backed new labellingproposals, which were drafted by the EU Commission and have already been supported by EU Agriculture Ministers two weeks ago. The new labelling rules will:

– extend labelling regulations to animal feed. This will make it easier for food manufacturers to obtain milk, eggs and meat from animals fed GM-free diets.

– extend the labelling regulations to include all ingredients derived from GM crops for food. At present regulations do not cover items such as sugar and vegetable oils, but the new regulations will.

– tighten the GM threshold (the amount of GM present in a food product before GM labelling regulations apply) from 1 per cent to 0.9 per cent.

Geert Ritsema, GMO Campaign Coordinator,
Phone: 00-32-(0)2- 542 0182. Mobile: 00-31-6-290 05 908