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04 Jul 2003 00:00
Europe’s ban on biotech foods is to be lifted and replaced by rules for clear labelling of all genetically modified (GM) products.
Euro-MPs voted on Wednesday to force producers to trace all GM organisms and oblige supermarkets to label products if they contain more than 0,9% of biotech material.
The new laws will allow the 15 EU member states to set their own national rules to stop GM seeds contaminating conventional or organic produce.
The move is likely to lead to the lifting of the EU moratorium on new biotech foods, introduced in 1998 in response to consumer fears about possible health risks.
The United States says the EU’s approach is based on unfounded fears and it has filed a complaint with the World Trade Organisation to force it to lift the moratorium.
But Wednesday’s decision is unlikely to satisfy Washington, which insists mandatory labelling of biotech products will be too costly for exporters and may constitute a new form of trade protection.
Greenpeace said the vote would give the EU “the world’s strictest and most comprehensive rules on the labelling of GM organisms’‘.
The European Commission also hailed the decision as giving consumers greater confidence in the safety of GM products.
But Caroline Lucas, a British Green MEP, said: “I am very glad that we’ve got some tougher legislation but I am concerned that the commission sees this as a green light to lift the moratorium. With the US breathing down our necks we need stronger safeguards and minimum EU-wide standards.
“We cannot just leave this to member states.’’ — Â.
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