GENET archive


6-Regulation: U.S. opposes Cyprus' GE food labelling regulation

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TITLE:  UPDATE 1-US says Cyprus ties could suffer over GMO plan
SOURCE: Reuters
DATE:   6 Jul 2005

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UPDATE 1-US says Cyprus ties could suffer over GMO plan

NICOSIA, July 6 (Reuters) - A plan by Cyprus to put genetically modified
food on separate supermarket shelves angered the United States on
Wednesday, as Washington warned the move could harm bilateral ties.

The U.S. had sent a letter to the Cypriot parliament warning that the
move by the European Union country would stigmatise biotech goods and
could contravene Cyprus' obligations as a World Trade Organisation
member, deputies said.

A U.S. diplomat did not deny the existence of the note and said
Washington regularly shared views with Cyprus on issues of concern.

Under EU legislation, each state is free to display biotech food as it wishes.

The bloc has tough rules for the labelling of food that contains
genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. If conventional food contains
more than 0.9 percent of authorised GMOs, it must be labelled as such
throughout the 25-nation bloc.

"We want to put better information at consumers' disposal on what they
are buying," said George Perdikis, a member of the Greens' Party which
tabled the proposal in parliament.

A note which Perdikis said was released by the American Embassy in
Nicosia, and which was seen by Reuters, urged parliamentarians to oppose
passage of the bill.

"The bill is in essence a poke in the eye of the U.S., which is the
leading developer and producer of agricultural biotech products," the
note read.

"The bill is tantamount to a non-tariff barrier to trade in biotech goods
and as such is in violation of your obligations as a member of the WTO.
It may also be inconsistent with your obligations as an EU member," the
note states.

Perdikis, a junior partner in Cyprus's centre-left government coalition,
said he came across the note in his parliamentary documents.

"This is blackmail. It speaks of harming bilateral relations. It is very
serious," he said.

A U.S. embassy spokesperson said: "The United States shares the goal of
the parliament and the government of the Republic of Cyprus to protect
the health and well-being of all Cypriots but it is of course up to the
parliament to decide what laws to pass.

"We do however regularly share our views with Cypriot officials on issues
of concern."

European public opinion is consistently hostile to genetically modified
products, fearing negative health and environmental effects. Advocates of
biotechnology say it is safe and will help eradicate world hunger by
improving food supply. (Additional reporting by Brussels bureau)

                                  PART II
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TITLE:  What were they thinking?
SOURCE: Cyprus Mail
DATE:   7 Jul 2005

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What were they thinking?

THE NOTE sent to the House of Representatives by the US embassy, urging
deputies not to approve a bill about products with biotech (GMO) content
was not a very wise move. The note's recipient, House president Demetris
Christofias, yesterday played down its significance, stressing it was
'unofficial' and urging a more sober approach to the issue. In the
meantime, it has proved a gift for those campaigning against the import
of genetically modified food. The Cyprus Greens had proposed the initial
bill which, if passed, would require all products with GMO content to be
placed on separate shelves in supermarkets, so as to inform consumers.
Thanks to the US embassy's note, the Greens were able to turn an issue
that nobody was interested in into a major news item.

The fuss made in the last couple of days was not over the genetically
modified food but over the interference of the US in Cyprus affairs. All
credit to greens leader George Perdikis for putting the spin that would
further his cause.

It is now a case of the arrogant US government trying to impose its
diktats on a small country like Cyprus by threatening deputies. It is
difficult to argue with this spin, considering the note issues the
following warning: "Do you really want to take this step which will only
hurt US-Cypriot relations while doing nothing to protect the health and
welfare of your citizens?" It then tells the House President to "do what
you can to keep the bill from coming to the floor" and if he cannot do
this "at least postpone further consideration of this bill until after
the summer recess". The embassy may be protecting the interests of the
US, which is the leading developer of agricultural biotech products, but
it should not have done this in such a heavy-handed way. Putting its
concerns in writing and handing the note to an unabashed anti-US
campaigner like Christofias was not the cleverest of ideas, nor was it a
big surprise that the note found its way to the other anti-US campaigner

The bill would probably not have been passed: biotech goods have been
found safe by the European Union experts and placing them on different
shelves in shops would be legally unjustified. Should other items that
are not genetically modified but may be harmful to our health be put on
different shelves as well? According to the logic of the Greens, the
answer would be yes.

Consumers still have a right to know what they are buying and there
should be labels informing them when products have biotech content. The
way the US embassy has handled the issue, could well secure Perdikis
adequate support for his illiberal bill as a mere show of defiance to
American arrogance rather than any serious concerns over biotech goods.

                                  PART III
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TITLE:  Greens' GM bill shelved until the Autumn
SOURCE: Cyprus Mail, by Stefanos Evripidou
DATE:   9 Jul 2005

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Greens' GM bill shelved until the Autumn

A VOTE on the controversial bill to separate genetically modified foods
on supermarket shelves will likely be put off until after the summer
break, to the dismay of its creator, Greens deputy George Perdikis.

The bill this week sparked an unusually blunt letter of concern from the
US Embassy to the Speaker of the House, Demetris Christofias,

The House Environment Committee convened yesterday to discuss Perdikis'
proposal to pass a law obliging supermarkets to display GM foods on
separate shelves that were clearly marked as GM shelves.

After hearing the opinion of the Legal Service, the entire Committee,
save Perdikis, agreed to seek a written opinion from the Attorney-
general's office on compatibility with EU law before tabling the bill in

For the bill to be passed by next Thursday, the last parliamentary
session before the summer recess, the Attorney-general's office would
have to prepare the opinion by Monday, a highly unlikely result given the
timeframe. This pushes a vote on the bill to October.

Perdikis was not pleased, blaming the potential delay on the intervention
of the US Embassy. He argued that before the US circulated a note to
parliament, all parties were ready to vote through the bill on GM products.

An unsigned letter from the US embassy in Nicosia to Christofias was
leaked to the press earlier this week. In the letter, the US strongly
urged Christofias to prevent the bill reaching the plenum, warning that
its approval would hurt Cyprus-US relations. The US is the biggest
producer of GM foods, and the embassy letter said plans to separate
products were tantamount to "stigmatising" the products that "have been
found safe by the European Commission experts".

Under EU legislation, each member state is free to display GM foods as it
sees fit but the bloc has tough labelling standards on genetically
modified organisms (GMOs). Food containing more than 0.9 per cent of
authorised GMOs must be labelled as such. "The Legal Service official
made an informal suggestion to have separate shelves for GM products but
without a separate label on those shelves. They were very confusing
proposals and the Committee asked for written proposals. We had three
meetings about this before and all the parties had agreed, now after the
US Embassy intervention, they're not sure any more," said Perdikis.

Acting Committee Chairman Georgios Hadjigeorgiou clarified after the
meeting that the committee in its entirety found the US intervention

DISY deputy Maria Kyriacou said all the parties agreed in principle to
the bill, but the problem was its poor drafting.

"We want to make sure that it's compatible with EU law. All parties agree
with the bill but because it wasn't drafted by a lawyer, things have been
left out, and it needs reworking," she said.

The problem is that the EU already has a regulation, directly transposed
into national law last year, governing the definition of GM foods.
Perdikis' bill contains its own definition, which would come into
conflict with EU law if passed.

"There is no politics behind this delay. All parties agree with the
intention but in reality, it has to be drafted properly. We can't deal
with things already provided in the regulation.

"Also, there are other problems in that the labelling of special shelves
doesn't cover frozen foods, and there are many GM frozen foods, so the
law is incomplete. It's a lack of experience in drafting, that's all,"
added Kyriacou.

The deputy noted, in theory, the EU does not say it is wrong to regulate
on how to display products.

"Under EU law, GM foods have to be labelled, and the consumer has to know
what he is eating."

Asked if she was aware of which products had GM labelling when shopping,
Kyriacou replied: "I don't know any GM food actually, I have never
noticed them to be honest, which is why no party opposes the proposal."

Meanwhile, an EU official told the Cyprus Mail that the European
Commission was investigating the draft bill and would likely reach a
verdict next week.

"The preliminary view is that you have to look at the bill's consistency
with EU Food Law, EU internal market rules and the World Trade
Organisation," said the official. On Community Food Law, the main
regulation stipulates that the labelling, advertising and presentation of
food should not mislead consumers.

"The preliminary view is that we don't see how different shelves mislead
consumers in any way. In many supermarkets in the EU, including in
Brussels, supermarkets already have separate shelving, though this is a
voluntary action."

On the Internal Market and WTO, the issue is whether there is
discrimination between domestic and imported products. "There doesn't
seem to be such a distinction in the bill," added the official.

Regarding the note sent by the US Embassy, the DISY deputy said: "It's
not uncommon to pass notes. When Cyprus had a big problem with piracy,
the US and EU countries passed notes saying something had to be done. We
didn't like it but it is something that is done."

Cyprus does not grow GM crops due to its size, the concern being that
seeds could be dispersed and affect non-GM fields. Meanwhile, the Greens
are holding an anti-globalisation demonstration outside the US embassy
next Wednesday at 7.30pm. The party says the US is mainly responsible for
the environmental crisis facing the world today.

                                  PART IV
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TITLE:  Comment - The twin face of our leadership
SOURCE: Cyprus Mail, by Makarios Droushiotis
DATE:   24 Jul 2005

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Comment - The twin face of our leadership

The more Papadopoulos and Christofias step up the domestic rhetoric, the
more concessions they make to the Americans

CYPRUS has recently concluded an agreement with the United States on a
memorandum against terrorism. The text of the memorandum has not been
made public, although it is known that the United States is interested in
carrying out inspections of ships flying the Cyprus flag, since Cyprus
has one of the biggest merchant marine fleets in the world.

It should be remembered that when in May this year a group of US senators
visited the occupied areas using Tymbou airport, Cypriot Foreign Minister
George Iacovou had warned that Cyprus would refuse to sign the memorandum
on terrorism as a reaction against US policy on Cyprus. Despite the above
threat, Cyprus has become the first European Union country to reach such
an agreement with the United States, while Iacovou is anxiously expecting
an invitation to visit the United States for the signing ceremony.

Even Demetris Christofias, the President of the House of Representatives,
who makes the most virulent anti-American speeches in Cyprus, has
digested an "ultimatum" contained in a memorandum addressed to the House
by the US embassy in Nicosia. The memorandum asked for his personal
intervention against a bill providing that genetically modified
foodstuffs should be placed on separate shelves in the supermarkets and,
in addition, to carry special labelling. Even though the embassy's note
was unofficial (a non paper), it warned Christofias that it was not in
his interest to promote this controversial bill. Christofias is assumed
to have taken into consideration, not only the essence of the note, but
also the warning it contained, since neither the bill was approved, nor
did he accuse the United States of interfering in Cyprus' internal
affairs, something that we have become accustomed to hearing from him.



European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
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D - 38116 Braunschweig

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