Brussels, October 9, 2002 – Today hundreds of people from a dozen European countries marched to the European Parliament and Council, pushing supermarket trolleys of food free of genetically modified (GM) ingredients. The protest coincided with a meeting today of European Union (EU) Member States Representatives and highlighted the importance of next week’s EU Ministerial meetings where important decisions will be made on GM labelling. EU ministers will determine whether or not consumers will be given a choice over eating GM foods.

EU ministers have a duty to save our food from genetic pollution. They should vote for full labelling of genetically modified food and oppose the lifting of the EU moratorium on GMOs when they meet in Luxemburg next week ,” said Geert Ritsema, GMO Campaign Co-ordinator of Friends of the Earth Europe.

Friends of the Earth is concerned that the EU ministers might water down the strict labelling rules that were adopted by the European Parliament in July. A draft for next week’s ministerial decision indicates that some EU member states are considering allowing food to be contaminated by up to 1% of genetically modified material, including GM ingredients which have not been authorised for sale in Europe. A majority in the European Parliament voted against allowing any unauthorized GMOs (genetically modified organisms) into the food chain.

Alexander de Roo, a Dutch Member of the European Parliament who attended the trolley parade today said “This protest is a clear signal that European consumers are no longer prepared to be cheated and that European citizens want to know what they eat.”

Alan Simpson, Labour MP from the UK, also attending the rally, said he was concerned about the lack of adequate liability laws. He said:
There are so many loopholes in the proposed liability directive that it is not worth the paper it is written on. The EU has come up with a new twisted principle of its own – ‘the polluter plays and the taxpayer pays.’

According to recent opinion polls, 71% of European citizens are opposed to GM food. However, European ministers are under increasing pressure from the biotech industry and the US to allow more GMOs into Europe.

Ministers could even decide to drop the EU-wide moratorium (import and growing ban) on approving any new GMOs at the Council meetings next week [1]. But Friends of the Earth believes the moratorium must be upheld until adequate biosafety regulations against the risks of GMOs, and liability rules for GMO producers are in place. They also want to see guarantees protecting food and farmers from contamination; and laws requiring the labelling of all GM food and GM animal feed.

Friends of the Earth Europe office: +32 2 542 0180
Geert Ritsema, GM campaign coordinator (in Brussels): + 31-6-290 05 908 (mob)
Niccolo Sarno, media co-ordinator (in Brussels on Oct. 9 only): +31-6-510 05 630 (mob)

During the demonstration, delegations from the following countries were present: Austria (Global 2000), Belgium (Velt, Les Amis de la Terre), Denmark (NOAH), Croatia (Zelena Akcija), England, Wales and NI (Friends of the Earth), France (Les Amis de la Terre), Germany (BUND), Ireland (Earthwatch), Luxembourg (Mouvement Ecologique), The Netherlands (Milieudefensie), Scotland (Friends of the Earth Scotland), Spain (Amigos de la Tierra), Sweden (Miljöförbundet Jordens Vänner)

[1] EU Ministerial meetings next week:
• On 14th October the Agricultural and Fisheries Council will vote upon the draft EU legislation on GM food/feed (COM (2001) 425 final), which deals with authorization of genetically modified food and animal feed, and also with traceability and labelling of GM food and GM animal feed.
• On 17th October the Environmental Council will vote about a proposal by the European Commission to install traceability for GM food and animal feed and to label all GM animal feed and all food derived from GMOs (COM (2001) 182 final).
• In early November the Standing Committee on “Seeds and Propagating Material for Agriculture, Horticulture and Forestry” will hold an indicative vote on a draft Directive (working document SANCO/1542/02-Juy 2002) concerning the genetic contamination of seeds.