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Thursday, 17 October, 2002, 11:25 GMT 12:25 UK
EU tightens GM food law
Police advance on protesters   PA
Campaigners say the law heralds the end of a GM ban
A new directive comes into force in the European Union on Thursday placing tighter restrictions on genetically modified crops, and the sale of food containing GM ingredients.


It's definitely not enough to cover all the risks that GMOs pose to human health and the environment

Geert Ritsema
Friends of the Earth
The directive says GM foods may pose environmental and health risks, and every country proposing to grow or import them should conduct a detailed assessment of those risks.

Governments will also have a statutory duty to consult the public.

Environmental groups have welcomed some of the measures, but they fear the EU may now lift its moratorium on approving new GM products.

Environment ministers from the 15 EU countries are also meeting in Luxembourg to discuss refinements to the labelling of GM food.

Commenting on the new directive, Geert Ritsema of the pressure group Friends of the Earth said the new risk assessment procedures for the use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) were welcome.

But he added: "It's definitely not enough to cover all the risks that GMOs pose to human health and the environment."

Labelling crucial

Since 1999, the EU has maintained a moratorium on approving new GMOs, but the European Commission has made it clear that at some point it will seek to lift this moratorium.

There is concern in some environmental groups that discussions on lifting it could now begin immediately.

Friends of the Earth is one of a number of environmental groups which believe the crucial issue regarding GM foods is labelling.

The new directive does say that products containing GM ingredients should be labelled, but the details of how and when they should be labelled comes in the draft directives being discussed by environment ministers in Luxembourg.

UK criticised

Friends of the Earth has accused the UK Government for opposing EU attempts to improve the labelling of GM products.

The group says British ministers are pandering to the requirements of the US Government and the US agricultural and biotechnology industries.


We do support labelling and traceability of GM material in non-GM products wherever that's practicable

UK Environment Minister Michael Meacher
Campaigner Pete Riley told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "It's pretty clear that the government is keen to ensure that there's a free flow of GM foods into Europe without any hindrance."

But Environment Minister Michael Meacher told the programme that the UK Government had no difficulties with a stronger labelling regime.

He said the UK Government supported plans for a threshold of 1% of GM products in an item as the point at which GM labelling would be required.

See also:

16 Oct 02 | Business
13 Oct 02 | Science/Nature
03 Oct 02 | Europe
24 Jul 02 | Scotland
03 Jul 02 | Science/Nature
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