Argentina alarmed by GM rules/Row over FAO GM proposal/labels and choice (12/5/2003)

12 May 2003

Argentina alarmed by GM rules/Row over FAO GM proposal/labels and choice

* Argentina: Brazil's rules for modified food alarms Argentina
* India: Row over FAO proposal on GM food labelling
* US: Grain Exchange Board Approves Specifying of Non-GM Wheat
* Thailand: Labels unchanged despite new rules
Brazil's rules for modified food alarms Argentina
ARGENTINA: May 12, 2003

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina - Brazil's decision to postpone the application of new rules requiring that labels identify genetically modified goods failed to calm nervous exporters in Argentina, where use of the products is extensive.

Brazil's new rules mandate the labeling of foods or ingredients of foods with more than 1 percent genetically modified material. The regulations sounded an alarm in Argentina's food industry, which has pointed to what it calls the enormous cost and logistical challenge of complying with the rules by separating genetically modified crops from traditional ones.

Brazil is Argentina's main trading partner and some 13 percent of the $11.4 billion of food Argentina exported last year went to Brazil, according to the Organization of American States' agricultural institute.

Major food exporter Argentina is second only to the United States in the use of genetically modified products, but while proponents say they increase efficiency, opponents say they could contain hidden health and environmental risks.

Apart from applying to soy oil and corn oil, the new rules also affect dairy products and meat of animals that may have been fed with genetically modified grains.

Argentine producers say the rules are stricter than in Europe, where resistance to genetically modified products is particularly high.  "They've gone too far in including animal products ... Argentine dairy products would have to carry a label saying this product comes from animals fed on GMOs," said Roberto Domenech, undersecretary of food at the agriculture department. "This hasn't been seen anywhere in the world." Argentina does not require labeling of genetically modified products.

"We respect each country's decision on whether to introduce a labeling system based on scientific criteria, but we think it is going to be difficult to implement for both countries," said Federico Ovejero, a spokesman for the Argentine unit of U.S. biotechnology giant Monsanto (MON.N).

Brazil forecast record grain crops this year and said it will overtake the United States as the world's No.1 soy exporter.


The new rules sparked surprise and confusion, prompting Argentina's Foreign Minister Carlos Ruckauf to begin negotiations with his Brazilian counterpart Celso Amorim that ended with an agreement to postpone the measure.

"A time period has been opened up to study how the rules will be applied to Mercosur (trade bloc) countries," Argentine Deputy Foreign Minister Martin Redrado said, without specifying how long the period would last.  Mercosur comprises Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Argentine industry sources viewed the negotiations with skepticism. "I don't see them having much success; they are just delaying things by a little," said a food company official who asked not to be identified.  Brazil has also authorized the sale of genetically modified soy to try to end a large black market in illegal genetically modified soy planting.

"First we have to see how Brazil deals with this domestically and then how it deals with Argentina, because in Brazil there is also a high percentage of GM soy," said Victor Castro of the Argentine Association of Seed Producers.
Row over FAO proposal on GM food labelling
M.R. Subramani
The Hindu Business Line

DAIRY and poultry players, especially exporters, see red in a proposal put forth on traceability and labelling of genetically-modified (GM) foods by the task force of the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) on animal feeding. But a section of those opposed to GM organisms feels the draft code of task force to the Codex Commission is on the right track.

In the eye of the storm is the draft code of "Practice on good animal feeding", almost finalised at a sitting in Copenhagen, Denmark recently by the task force. The draft, now forwarded to the Codex Commission, is set for approval towards the end of next month.

The task force members, including representatives from India, have come up with the proposal to ensure that food consumed by humans is safe. The task force wants this done by making sure that animals are fed with food that will not lead to any side effects to humans consuming them.

The task force has laid guidelines for procurement, handling, storage, processing, and distribution of animal feed and feed ingredients for food-producing animals.

Called the Code of Practice, it will apply to the production and use of all materials destined for animal feed and feed ingredients at all levels whether produced industrially or on farm. It also includes grazing or free-range feeding, forage crop production and aquaculture.

What has become objectionable to dairy and poultry players is the labelling norm.  "We in India will have a problem as Bt cotton has now been allowed and cotton seed sake is widely used by the dairy farmers as well as some of the feed mills. In times to come other GM crops will also be released and if India has to be a major player in the animal sector, we need to oppose the GM traceability and labelling guidelines or a developing country like India will have to pay a heavy price for this," industry sources said.

The code calls for proper procedures to trace feed and feed ingredients through proper labelling and record keeping at all stages of production and distribution.  This should facilitate the prompt trace-back or trace-forward of materials and products if any actual or potential health risks are identified. It should also help in and prompt and complete withdrawal or recall of products whenever necessary.

Those opposed to GM organisms welcome the draft. "It will ensure that any animal feed is not tainted," they said. The US is one of the countries against the proposal and the US lobby is seen trying to build an opinion among dairy and poultry farmers against the draft code.  "Naturally, US corn imported to India and other developing countries will come under microscope through this proposal. It is one of the reasons that an opinion is being built against the task force proposal," they said.

FAO said in its Web site that the task force had a substantive debate on the necessity of labelling GM and derived products. The mandate of the Codex Committee on Food Labelling will be limited to labelling issues relating to food.

At the Copenhagen meet, some task force members pointed out that labelling of foods derived from GMOs had not been decided at the relevant Commission bodies yet and that there was no need to single out the labelling of individual technologies in this Code of Practice. But other delegates favoured labelling of feed and feed ingredients derived from new technologies as "it is an important risk management measure and allows consumers to make an informed choice".

Besides, the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand are opposed to the decision on labelling.
Minneapolis Grain Exchange Board of Directors Approves Rule Allowing Spring Wheat Delivery Takers the Choice of Specifying Non-Genetically Modified Wheat
Source - Reuters General News (Eng)
Friday, May 09, 2003  20:33

MINNEAPOLIS, May 9 /PRNewswire/ -- Minneapolis Grain Exchange (MGEX) directors yesterday approved a rule to allow takers of spring wheat futures deliveries the choice of specifying non-genetically modified wheat in fulfillment of delivery obligations.  Pending MGEX ownership approval, Rule 803.02 and accompanying Resolution 803.02 will be effective with the July 2004 hard red spring wheat futures contract and all subsequently listed trading months.  MGEX ownership ballots will be counted on May 27.

"Although genetically modified, or transgenic, wheat varieties are not currently on the market, we believe we must take a proactive stance on this issue," said Kent Horsager, MGEX president and chief executive officer. "This rule is not intended to eliminate deliveries of genetically modified spring wheat.  It just gives the taker of delivery the right to choose," Horsager added.

"MGEX directors decided to address the potential for delivery of genetically modified wheat before it became a factor in our cash markets," said Ray Lottie, chairman of the MGEX board of directors and manager of cereal and eastern grain operations for General Mills.  "This is a highly political and emotional issue for the wheat industry and we did not want to wait for a dispute to arise before acting.  We have an obligation to preserve the orderly nature of our Spring Wheat Futures delivery process.   

MGEX, established in 1881, is the only market for hard red spring wheat, National Corn Index (NCI), National Soybean Index (NSI) and Hard Winter Wheat Index (HWI) futures and options.  For more information about MGEX, visit www.mgex.com .
Labels unchanged despite new rules
Source - Bangkok Post (Eng)
Monday, May 12, 2003  08:42

Labels on food products on supermarket shelves remained unchanged yesterday as the regulation requiring labelling of genetically-modified ingredients came into force for the first day.

Greenpeace, which has campaigned for the labelling rule, blamed the lapse on loopholes created by the loosely-written rule announced a year ago by the Public Health Ministry.

The rule requires labelling on 24 types of products made from GM corn and soybeans. A product where one of the three main ingredients contains more than 5% GM materials must be labelled ``made from genetically-modified corn or soybeans''.

However, a survey at a Bangkok supermarket yesterday found that none of the products made from corn and soybeans, from tofu to soy milk to corn snacks, was carrying such a label.

Consumers said they knew too little about genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) to be concerned.  ``If they want to stress the impact of GM materials in food, the authority should include possible side-effects in the labels, too,'' said Wacharee Narakul, 42, a nurse who was shopping at a Lotus superstore.

"We expect little change to come from the rule. We know they have left a lot of room for producers to get away with not informing consumers," said Greenpeace Southeast Asia campaigner Varoonvarn Svangsopakul.

Even products which Greenpeace knew contained GM materials, such as Nestle's baby food Cerelac, did not need a special label under the rule, she said.

Many more products would need to change their labels if the Food and Drugs Administration had set a benchmark of 1% instead of 5%, and based the requirement on overall ingredients, not only the top three.

Corn syrup, corn starch, and soybean starch used in the products would be identified under a stricter guideline.  ``To continue using the present rule is to continue lying to consumers. It's their right to know what they eat,'' Ms Varoonvarn said.  She also called on the FDA to be strict and thorough in implementing the rules.

Thailand is said to have based its labelling rule on a Japanese model, but Japan had another law banning imports of GM materials. The only GM materials Japan deals with are ones produced domestically.  

Greenpeace also wanted the rules to be extended to cover potatoes, papayas, and tomatoes.  The FDA says it has no equipment to check GM presence in food other than corn and soybean.

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