BioWorld International Correspondent
BRUSSELS, Belgium - There is no need to create new legislation in the European Union on labeling of products containing genetically modified organisms, according to biotechnology industry spokesman Dick Toet, from the Swiss company Nestec.
Speaking as the representative of the Federation of the Food and Drink Industries of the EU at the mid-May meeting of the European Parliament's special cross-party discussion group on labeling of GMOs, he said that the agri-foods industry said EU legislation should remain unchanged. "It provides satisfactory outcomes as it is," he said. It makes more sense, in his view, to ensure traceability of products through the existing framework of EU food safety legislation.
The European Commission, which is responsible for proposing legislation in the EU, has yet to make up its mind on how to deal with consumer pressures for clearer labeling. Kim Madsen, from the Commission's Directorate General for Health and Consumer Protection, said there are currently four options on the table: maintaining the status quo, developing criteria for labeling that a product "does not contain GMOs," labeling all GM ingredients and labeling the use of GMOs at any point in the production process.
The pressures for tight legislation were evident in the remarks made at the meeting by Aude L'Hirondel, from the European cooperative consumers group, Eurocoop. She insisted that consumers wanted accurate information every time GMOs are used in the production process, "even if all traces have been removed by the end of the process." Most consumers are asking serious questions about GM food, she said, and Eurocoop wants labeling of all GM ingredients. A label that says that a product does not contain GMOs is useless, she said. She said consumers are not interested in what is not in a product - they want to know what is in the product.
Members of the European Parliament who attended the meeting criticized what they saw as the industry forcing GMOs onto consumers' plates without taking the trouble to assess consumer needs. They urged better information and demonstrations that GMOs are actually beneficial.