US Big Food lobby calls on WTO to take action on EU labeling/Brazil labels GM food (16/4/2004)

1.EU Biotech Labeling and Traceability Requirements 'Will Be a Serious Barrier to International Trade'
2.Brazil labels GM food
3.Food Firms Reject GM Ingredients

1.EU Biotech Labeling and Traceability Requirements 'Will Be a Serious Barrier to International Trade,' Says NFPA [shortened]

WASHINGTON, April 16 /PRNewswire/ -- Commenting on the European Union's new requirements for labeling and traceability of foods and feeds that contain genetically modified ingredients, which become effective on April 18, John R. Cady, President and CEO of the National Food Processors Association (NFPA), made the following statement:

"These new requirements establish a serious trade barrier that will keep many U.S. food products out of the European market. European consumers will see such labels on food products as 'warning labels.'  ...the traceability requirements are a classic case of regulatory overkill, putting complex and detailed new requirements on food companies, with no benefit - but with added expense - for consumers. NFPA has long opposed these labeling and traceability requirements by the EU.  We strongly urge the World Trade Organization to address this issue, and take action to block these new, unnecessary barriers to trade.

NFPA is the voice of the food processing industry on scientific and public policy issues involving food safety, food security, nutrition, technical and regulatory matters and consumer affairs.

2.Brazil labels GM food
Luisa Massarani
16 April 2004
Source: SciDev.Net

[RIO DE JANEIRO] All human and animal food sold in Brazil that contains more than one per cent genetically modified (GM) ingredients must now be labelled under a law that came into force this month.

The law states that the packaging of GM products should be labelled with a 'T' — for 'transgenic' — no smaller than about 1 centimetre squared. It also imposes fines of between US$65 and US$1 million on producers that flout the new regulations.

Three organisations will be responsible for enforcing the law: the Ministry of Agriculture and the National Health Surveillance Agency will take care of agricultural and industry matters, respectively;

PROCONs, the state consumer-protection organisation will control commerce of GM products.

At present, it is illegal to grow GM crops for commercial purposes in Brazil. The only exception is GM soya illegally grown in 2003, which was granted special permission to be sold for both animal and human consumption (see Brazil to allow sale of illegally grown GM food and Brazil agrees to cultivation of GM soya — for now).

Paradoxically, however, the new law does not require products containing the 2003 GM soya be labelled. Rather, the law states that the labels of such products should include the information: "this may contain ingredients produced by GM soya" or "this may contain GM soya".

The law has received a mixed reaction in the scientific community. Silvio Valle, a biosafety expert at Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Rio de Janeiro, questions why the legislation is stricter for products that are unlikely to be found on the Brazilian market, such as GM maize, than it is for illegally grown GM soya, "which is a reality in our country".

He says that the law does not make clear whether imported GM products must also be labelled. And he adds that it very unlikely that any labelled GM products will appear in Brazilian supermarkets this year.

This is not the first time that Brazil has legislated on labelling GM food. The government of ex-president Fernando Henrique Cardoso introduced a law that products with more than 4 per cent GM ingredients should be labelled, a limit that was reduced to one per cent in April 2003 by president Luiz Inácio 'Lula' da Silva. However, neither of these laws was ever put into practice.

3.Food Firms Reject GM Ingredients
Apr 15 2004

The UK's biggest food companies will continue to reject GM ingredients in their products when tougher GM labeling laws are introduced on Sunday 18th April, a survey by Friends of the Earth has revealed. The news will be welcomed by consumers across the UK who made it clear that they do not want to eat GM food. Meanwhile the UK Government, which opposed plans for tougher GM labeling rules to "minimise the risks" of alienating the US [1], is backing applications for GM rice and sweetcorn to be imported into Europe.

Under existing EU regulations, food containing one per cent or more of genetically modified DNA must be labeled so that consumers can opt to avoid it. But on Sunday 18th April tougher GM labeling rules come in to effect which:
*Cover `derivatives' from GM crops including oils and lecithin, both mainly found in processed food;
*Tighten the labeling threshold from one per cent to 0.9 per cent;
*Include `feed' fed to animals.

Friends of the Earth contacted the UK's leading supermarkets and food manufacturers [see below] to question their policy on the new GM labeling laws. Most indicated that they do not expect to be required to label any of their own-brand products when the new regulations come into force. The continuing GM ban is a result of clear anti-GM pressure from consumers. Last year the Government embarked on a major public consultation on GM which found that most people said no to GM. Only eight per cent said they were happy to eat GM food - 86 per cent were not.

News that food companies are continuing to boycott GM ingredients will come as a further blow to biotech firms. Last month it became clear that GM crops would not be grown in the UK for the foreseeable future when Bayer ditched plans to commercialise GM maize, despite qualified Government backing for the crop. The move means that the UK is likely to remain free from commercial GM crops for the foreseeable future.

Despite consumer hostility toward GM food, the UK Government continues to support it at a European level, backing applications for GM rice and sweetcorn to be imported into the UK. If these crops are allowed to be imported into the UK, it will be harder for companies to avoid GM contamination, and undermine consumer efforts to choose GM-free food.

Friends of the Earth's GM campaigner Clare Oxborrow said:

"Food companies are rightly continuing to listen to UK consumers and saying no to GM ingredients. This is good news for everyone who wants GM-free food. But the UK Government continues to undermine efforts to keep Britain GM-free by backing plans for GM rice and sweetcorn to be imported in to Britain. If this happens it will be harder for companies and consumers to avoid GM. It's time Mr. Blair abandoned the dangerous and unpopular GM experiment and backed healthy and sustainable food and farming instead."

The United States Government has threatened to challenge the European GM labeling scheme under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules. The USA and a handful of other countries have already launched a WTO case over Europe's de facto moratorium on the granting of new GM licenses on GM food and crops.


1. The UK Government opposed the labeling of GM derivatives, and the tightening of the GM threshold to below 1 per cent. See: http://news.scotsman.com/politics.cfm?id=610962003



J Sainsbury:
"Based on the informal guidance received to date from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) we see no reason for any changes that will be required to be made to the labeling of our own label foods." - Letter 31 April 2004

"as a 100 % own brand retailer we are able to offer our customers a very clear proposition that all Marks & Spencer food is produced using non GM ingredients and derivatives" - Letter 12 March 2004

"I can confirm that Waitrose continues to obtain food and food ingredients for Waitrose brand from conventional (rather than GM) sources and to transport and process them in a way designed to prevent accidental mixing with GM material. Therefore there will be no changes to the labeling of Waitrose brand products as far as genetically modified ingredients are concerned." - Letter 10 March 2004

"With regard to our current product range and the impact of the impending EU regulations, none of our range will require labeling as containing GM ingredients"

"..it will remain our policy to ensure that no own brand products contain GM ingredients"

"Tesco does not…have any own-label GM foods on its shelves, and this will not change as a result of the new EU legislation in April… the new legislation will mean that branded products on our shelves which have GM ingredients will have to be labeled, enabling the customer to make an informed choice."

Morrisons/ Safeway:
"We have removed GM ingredients and GM derivatives from all our own label products. In accordance with current legislation we expect branded goods that contain GM ingredients to be clearly labelled to enable our shoppers to make their own informed choice about what they are buying.

Regarding GM animal feed, we are working with our suppliers to come up with a solution that will support our existing policy."

"…we do not at this stage anticipate private label products requiring GM labeling."

Somerfield/ Kwiksave
"Our position with regards to Genetic Modification remains unchanged. The changes in the EU regulations will not affect our own label products or the way that we continue to produce them."

"Iceland own brand products have been made without GM ingredients since 1998 and we can confirm our commitment to this policy remains…The new regulations will not lead to any change in this position." Letter 14 March 2004


"We do not expect there will be labelled products…" Dick Toot, Unilever - phone conversation 6/4/04

Associated British foods -
All ABF brands are GM free - phone conversation.

Nestlé recognises consumer concerns about different aspects of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and therefore continues to provide non-GM products.

Cadbury Schweppes:
"from 18th April 2004 the date the regulation occurs our products will not require GM labeling." - e-mail 5 April 2004

Contact details:
Friends of the Earth
26-28 Underwood St.
N1  7JQ
Tel: 020 7490 1555
Fax: 020 7490 0881
Email: [email protected]
Website: www.foe.co.uk

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