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6-Regulation: Codex Alimentarius adopts GE food standards

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                                  PART I
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TITLE:  Codex Alimentarius Commission adopts more than 50 new food
SOURCE: FAO/WHO - Codex Alimentarius
DATE:   Jul 9, 2003

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Codex Alimentarius Commission adopts more than 50 new food standards
New guidelines on genetically modified and irradiated food

9 July 2003, Rome -- The Codex Alimentarius Commission has adopted a
landmark agreement on how to assess the risks to consumers from foods
derived from biotechnology, including genetically modified foods, FAO and
the World Health Organization (WHO) said today. Altogether, the
Commission adopted more than 50 new food safety and quality standards,
some of which are revisions of old standards. The Commission adopted
ground-breaking guidelines for assessing the food safety risks posed by
foods derived from biotechnology.

Food safety and genetically modified food

These guidelines lay out broad general principles intended to make the
analysis and management of risks related to foods derived from
biotechnology uniform across Codex's 169 member countries. The guidelines
concern food safety and not environmental risks.

Provisions of the guidelines include pre-market safety evaluations and
product tracing for recall purposes and post-market monitoring. The
guidelines cover the scientific assessment of DNA-modified plants, such
as maize, soya or potatoes, and foods and beverages derived from DNA-
modified micro-organisms, including cheese, yoghurt and beer.

They include provisions for assessing the product's allergenicity,
determining if the product may provoke unexpected allergies in consumers.

"These guidelines are a very important step towards understanding the
risks associated with foods derived from biotechnology," said Alan
Randell, Secretary of the Codex Commission.

"Now, any country, regulatory body or other organization or individual
will be able to compare the risk assessments of a given food derived from
biotechnology with the assessments done by other countries. As long as
the science is sound, each country wishing to use or introduce a given
food derived from biotechnology will not have to redo the analysis, but
can move directly to deciding how to manage the marketing of that food.
Consumers can be assured that foods assessed by these methods are fit to
eat," he said.

Irradiated food

The Commission also adopted a new standard for irradiated foods that
accepts higher levels of radiation on food products. Food is irradiated
to make it safe for longer periods of time. The process, which uses gamma
ray irradiation, kills bacteria, increasing the food products' shelf life.

The Commission determined that allowing higher levels of irradiation
would eliminate bacterial spores and the radiation resistant pathogenic
bacteria Clostridium botulinum. The process also reduces the need to use
more toxic chemical methods of combating bacteria, some of which can be
harmful to the environment.

"This is a really important breakthrough," Randell said. "For the
consumer it means a potential for higher levels of food safety because of
the protection offered by food irradiation. For example, it can be
applied to spices which can carry bacteria resistant to other treatments.
Irradiated foods are proven safe and do not contain any radioactive traces."

Responding to consumer concerns about meat, the Commission adopted
standards that will improve the safety of meat by establishing principles
of meat hygiene. A Code of Practice on good animal feeding calls for
stricter and more systematic controls over sources of contamination.

Cocoa in chocolate

Codex adopted new quality standards for many food items. For example,
consumers will soon note the amount of cocoa in chocolate and chocolate
products will determine when the term "chocolate" can be used. The new
standard sets a minimum 35 per cent of cocoa solids in products marketed
as "chocolate" and a minimum 20 per cent in "chocolate type" products,
such as "chocolate flakes". The new standard requires the minimum cocoa
content to be clearly marked on the packaging of all chocolate flavoured

"The Commission made some very important decisions for food safety. The
most important of these was to extend food safety systems to small and
medium-sized enterprises, especially in developing countries. This will
help these small businesses produce safe food for consumers and improve
their prospects for trade," said Alan Randell.

The Commission examined its own structures and procedures to speed up its
work and make it more open to developing countries and international non-
governmental organizations. Additionally WHO and FAO requested Codex to
better prioritize its requests for scientific advice, which is provided
by FAO/WHO expert bodies. FAO and WHO will strengthen their efforts in
providing the science as the basis for Codex standards in a timely manner.

FAO and WHO further called on developed countries to contribute to the
Codex Trust Fund to help increase participation by developing countries
in the standard-setting process.

The commission elected Stuart Slorach of Sweden as its new Chairperson.

The Codex Alimentarius Commission is the highest international body on
food standards. The Commission is a subsidiary body of FAO and WHO. Codex
Alimentarius means "food code" and is the compilation of all the
Standards, Codes of Practice, Guidelines and Recommendations of the Codex
Alimentarius Commission.

Codex has 169 member countries. The 26th session was attended by
delegates from 127 of the member countries, the most ever to attend a
Codex session. Contacts: Erwin Northoff Information Officer, FAO (+39)
06 570 53105

Gregory Hartl
WHO Media Advisor
(+41) 22 791 4458


conference documents are available at:

                                  PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  UN body adopts global GM guidelines
SOURCE: Financial Times, UK, by Frances Williams
DATE:   Jul 9, 2003

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UN body adopts global GM guidelines

The United Nations advisory body on food safety has adopted the first-
ever international guidelines for assessing the risks to consumers of
eating genetically modified foods, in a move that could oblige the US to
tighten its controls to ensure access to foreign markets. Advertisement

The guidelines, adopted by consensus this week in Rome by the Codex
Alimentarius Commission, include the carrying-out of safety evaluations
before food products are put on the market and measures to ensure
products can be traced back to their origins for recall purposes and
post-market monitoring. There are also provisions for assessing
unexpected allergic reactions.

"These guidelines are a very important step in understanding the risks
associated with foods derived from biotechnology," Alan Randell, Codex
secretary, said on Wednesday. "Consumers can be assured that foods
assessed by these methods are fit to eat."

Codex, a joint commission of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation and
the World Health Organisation, has 169 members, a record 127 of whom
attended the Rome meeting. Codex standards are voluntary but are used as
benchmarks in World Trade Organisation disputes to help determine whether
a country's safety standards represent a disguised barrier to trade.

Greenpeace, the environmental campaign group that has been one of the
fiercest critics of GM foods, said the Codex guidelines were "an
important step forward" in assessing safety, which highlighted the
shortcomings of procedures in the US, where most GM crops are grown and
sold. According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), more than
50 bio-engineered foods are currently on the US market.

"The guidelines serve to highlight the inadequacies and lack of
scientific rigour used in the approval process in the US," Greenpeace
said. "US review of genetically engineered foods by the FDA does not
assure the safety of those foods."

The FDA does not require a pre-market safety assessment, nor an
assessment of unintended effects of gene modification, Greenpeace noted.

However, the WHO says no effects on human health have been reported from
countries where GM foods are widely available.

A study published last month by the International Council for Science,
which represents more than 100 science academies, concluded that GM foods
were safe to eat but warned that "this does not guarantee that no risks
will be encountered as more foods are developed with novel characteristics".

By enabling Brussels to claim that US safety testing falls short of
international standards, the new Codex guidelines provide the European
Union with additional ammunition in defending its current moratorium on
approval of GM food imports in the WTO case brought by the US earlier
this year.

The US, which supported adoption of the Codex accord, has not said
whether it intends to change its procedures.


European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
Kleine Wiese 6
D - 38116 Braunschweig

phone:  +49-531-5168746
fax:    +49-531-5168747
mobile: +49-162-1054755
email:  genetnl(at)