More Safety for Children and Others
Summit Calls for Labelling of Genetically Modified Ingredients
A major report released from the United States-European Union summit meeting calls for the mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods. Here are some quotes followed by a few excerpts from a news report on this pro-science, anti-lobbyist result.
The Biotechnology Consultative Forum was "mandated to reflect upon, discuss and assess the benefits and risks of modern biotechnology, including health, safety, economic development, food security and environmental aspects."
The exact wording of the report's section on mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods:
"Consumers should have the right of informed choice regarding the selection of what they want to consume. Therefore, at the very least, the EU and the U.S. should establish content-based mandatory labelling requirements for finished products containing novel genetic material. (Recommendation 15)"
"Regulatory authorities charged with developing labelling protocols should consider the reliability of detection systems in identifying modified/novel ingredients, and the need to define appropriate minimum levels which would trigger mandatory labelling requirements."
A panel of American and European Union biotech experts urged the U.S. government on Monday to adopt stricter regulations requiring new gene-spliced foods to win government approval before they can be sold and also to require that such food be clearly labeled.
"Consumers should have the right of informed choice regarding the selection of what they want to consume," said a report released as part of a US-EU meeting on trade, defense and other issues in Washington.
"Therefore, at the very least, the U.S. and the EU should establish content-based mandatory labeling requirements for finished products containing novel genetic material," added the report from the diverse panel made up of well-known U.S. and European scientists, environmentalists, biotech industry representatives and farmers.
The report proposed broad principles for regulating biotech foods to ensure safety and boost public confidence in the controversial foods. But an [anti-science, anti-consumer] group representing U.S. food manufacturers and marketers said it opposed the proposals.
The panel's recommendations may influence the incoming Bush administration as well as Congress. The U.S. government and the nation's food producers have been seeking ways to make genetically modified foods more palatable to consumers in the United States and in especially in Europe, where genetically modified foods have met heavy resistance.
Members of the panel ranged from biotech advocates such as Nobel Peace Prize-winning scientist Norman Borlaug and DuPont vice president Terry Medley, to bio-food critics such as Dan Leskien with Friends of the Earth, and scientist Rebecca Goldburg of Environmental Defense.
The European Union already requires labels on foods containing ingredients such as gene-altered soybeans, corn, squash or tomatoes. More than a dozen other nations such as Japan, Australia and New Zealand have similar regulations. The United States offers no such protections to consumers.
Another recommendation from the panel called for mandatory pre-market scientific approval of all new bio-foods -- a step the United States has been reluctant to take.
The entire 24-page report from the summit is available at http://europa.eu.int/comm/external_relations/us/biotech/report.pdf
So this summit paid more attention to science and safety than to lobbyists. What might happen next? Share your opinions with others at The Progress Report: