One million EU citizens call for labelling of GM foods
05.02.2007 - 17:32 CET / By Helena Spongenberg
EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - A Greenpeace petition - signed by 1 million EU citizens is calling on the European Commission to legislate that food products such as eggs, meat and milk where the animal has been fed with genetically modified crops should be labelled as such.
The petition was handed over to EU health commissioner Markos Kyprianou on Monday (5 February) after the 1,000,000 signatures had been displayed outside the EU executive building in Brussels.
'This petition reflects the broad concern of the public for food safety, for the quality of food and in particular for the use of GMOs in the food chain,' said Marco Contiero from Greenpeace at a press conference together with the commissioner.
Under EU law, foods like cooking oil, ketchup and cake mix have to be labelled if the ingredients include 0.9 percent GMOs or more, and animal feed packets must be similarly labelled. But food products derived from animals fed with GMOs do not need to be labelled.
'Currently there is a loophole in the legislation and we hope that the commission will actually act in order to cover this loophole, because millions of tonnes of genetically modified crops are entering the European market every year, used in animal feed,' Mr Contiero said, adding that consumers in the EU are not informed about this.
Greenpeace said that up to 30 percent of the regular diet of farm animals contains GMOs, adding that over 90 percent of GM crops imported into the 27-nation bloc are soy and maize destined for animal feed.
The group argues that studies have shown that animals react badly to genetically modified crops.
Industry argues, however, that European concerns are unfairly restricting their access to the lucrative EU market, and that decisions on the approval of new products are based on political motives rather than scientific proof.
'A petition supported by 1 million signatures of course shows a strong interest on the part of European citizens for a specific issue and therefore we will take this into serious consideration,' Mr Kyprianou said.
He explained that even though an attempt for similar measures was taken out of a compromise law on labelling by the European Parliament and the member states in 2004, the commission would look at the case again.
'Being presented now with a strong view on the part of the European citizens, of course we will look into the matter again,' he said, adding that he would consult with his advisers.
Mr Contiero told EUobserver that things look differently now than they did four years ago with more studies and a petition from one million citizens in 21 EU countries.
The right of citizens to form an initiative and become more involved in EU issues is part of the European Constitution, rejected by France and the Netherlands in 2005 but seeing a revival by the current German EU presidency.
According to the treaty, if a petition collects one million signatures, the commission can then be asked to look into the issue.
'Even if the EU constitution is not ratified it is still a principle for the EU - it has a political weight that cannot simply be disregarded,' Mr Contiero explained.
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