EU GMO-labelling laws judged insufficient

3 November 2009

Brussels, November 3, 2009 - France is poised to become the latest in a growing trend of European countries to introduce GMO-free labels for food in a bid to counter weaker EU standards and to compensate for a loophole in European labelling laws [1]. Currently, EU labelling laws mean meat, dairy and eggs from animals fed with genetically modified animal feed do not have to be labelled.
Helen Holder, European GMO campaign coordinator at Friends of the Earth Europe, said: "The current loophole in EU labelling laws is very handy for the biotech industry, but not good for consumers who have no idea that the meat, dairy or eggs they are eating come from factory farms using genetically modified animal feed."
The official French advisory body on GMOs, the Haut Conseil des Biotechnologies (HBC), today advised the French government that a GMO-free label should be based on a lower threshold than in EU legislation [2]. The government is now expected to follow the Council's advice and to issue a proposal.
Helen Holder continued: "The French High Council's advice is very welcome. A growing number of member states are taking the initiative to make sure that when consumers want GMO-free products, this is what they really get. But this is not enough: an urgent change is needed at EU level. GMO laws must include the mandatory labelling of meat, dairy and eggs throughout the European Union."
"The adoption of GMO-free labelling laws indicates the serious commitment around Europe to ensure that food and crops remain uncontaminated. It is also a strong message to farmers around the world that Europe - one of the biggest global markets - wants GMO-free products. They should listen to this rather than to the biotech industry's marketing spin."
The European Commission is currently overseeing a major review of GMO laws, to be completed in 2010. Friends of the Earth Europe is calling for the labelling of all meat, eggs and dairy from animals fed with genetically modified animal feed.
[1] EU legislation is based on a threshold of 0.9%. This means that any product with GMO contamination under 0.9% does not have to be labelled as containing GMOs, as long as this contamination can be proven to be technically unavoidable or adventitious. The French advice today is for a GMO free label based on 0.1%
[2] Germany, Austria and Italy also have labelling schemes on place and the Irish government recently announced that they will adopt one.

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