Cypriot Parliament stands firm on GM law (13/7/2007)

House stands firm on GM law
By Jean Christou
Cyprus Mail, 13 July 2007

PARLIAMENT yesterday refused to acknowledge a veto by President Tassos Papadopoulos on the stacking of products with Genetically Modified (GM) content on separate supermarket shelves, the Green Party said.

A bill providing for separate display was passed by Parliament on June 14 but was vetoed by the President, who said it would have to be amended. The bill had been before Parliament for two years and when it was passed it made Cyprus the first EU country to create such a law.

"The President is allowed to practice his veto and ask Parliament to withdraw or amend the bill," said Green Party leader George Perdikis. "We said 'no' to the President."

Perdikis denied that the EU had quashed the idea of such a law. "It was the government that assumed the EU would have a position on the bill and that's why they asked for it to be withdrawn," he added. "We are not going to change it, and of now it's final."

Perdikis said Papadopoulos could appeal to the Supreme Court on the issue if he wished.

The proposal had been put forward by the party because it felt that the current labelling of GM products was inadequate, as they are mixed with standard products so the public is not given a clear choice, misleading many people who did not want to purchase GM foods.

"As of now, they will have to be placed on separate shelves," Perdikis said. He said the Green Party would be monitoring the situation "very strictly and closely" to ensure the law was followed by shops and supermarkets.

Shortly after the Greens proposal was first made two years ago, an unsigned letter from the US embassy in Nicosia to House Speaker Demetris Christofias was leaked to the press. The US is the biggest producer of GM foods.

The letter warned Cyprus that passing such a bill was tantamount to "stigmatising" products that have been "found safe by the European Commission experts" and that the legislation would hurt Cyprus-US relations.

Results of a State Lab test in Cyprus found that 12 of the 63 products tested (almost 1 out of every 5) contained GM organisms without the required labelling. Five of those 12 were even labelled 'GM-free'.

In other tests since 2005, it was found that two of 37 tested products – which were all soy or corn based – contained GM in quantities greater than 0.9 per cent.

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