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6-Regulation: Slim chance of EU labels for "biotech" meat, eggs



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TITLE:  Slim chance of EU labels for "biotech" meat, eggs
SOURCE: Reuters, by Jeremy Smith
        http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticleSearch.aspx?
storyID=162818+12-Jul-2005+RTRS&srch=GMOs
DATE:   12 Jul 2005

------------------- archive: http://www.genet-info.org/ -------------------


Slim chance of EU labels for "biotech" meat, eggs

BRUSSELS, July 12 (Reuters) - EU regulators show no sign of wanting to
extend strict labelling laws to foods like meat and eggs coming from
animals that have eaten genetically modified (GMO) feed -- annoying green
groups but keeping industry happy.

The European Union has thresholds for how much GMO material may be
present in foods and animal feed before being labelled as biotech.

But these rules, which came into force in 2004, do not apply to meat and
dairy products deriving from a GMO-fed animal.

For green groups opposed to biotechnology, this exemption is a glaring
loophole in the EU's labyrinthine laws on GMO foods. But for the biotech
and animal feed industry, it would be unthinkable and unacceptable to
change the status quo.

The difference in opinion is just another illustration of Europe's deep-
seated and often bitter divisions over GMOs. Since 1998, EU governments
have been unable to agree over authorising imports of any new GMO crop or
food.

Green groups say the key is what consumers know and want. Europe's
shoppers are known for their wariness towards biotech foods, with
opposition polled at slightly over 70 percent.

"People have the impression that everything is taken care of now that we
have GMO labelling laws," said Geert Ritsema at Greenpeace International.
"Consumers aren't aware of the problem ... what would trigger this
labelling would be market pressure."

The European Commission, the EU's executive arm that drafts new
legislation for national governments to debate and endorse, says there
are no plans to tighten the rules on GMO labelling.

"The Commission believes this would be disproportionate. It's not on the
agenda," one Commission official told Reuters.


NO PROBLEM, INDUSTRY SAYS

Europe's biotech and feed industries back the Commission line, insisting
there is no evidence that meat or dairy products from a GMO-fed animal
would qualify as genetically modified.

"Poultry that has eaten GM maize does not become a GM bird," said
Alexander Doering, secretary-general of the European Compound Feed
Manufacturers' Federation (FEFAC).

"There has been no scientific proof of any GM transfer to food tissue,"
he said. "Just by eating the stuff, the animal does not become
genetically modified."

The potential cost, and logistical difficulties, to industry of
tightening Europe's GMO labelling rules are also a factor.

One feed industry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said such
a move "would be a complete disaster" -- not only financially, but also
because of the likely surge in consumer demand for products from animals
fed with non-GMO feed.

The bulk of EU feed imports, mainly soybeans and maize, comes from
countries like the United States where GMO crops are common through the
crop supply chain. Around 90 percent of the EU's imports of GMO grain and
oilseeds are used as animal feed.

Feed makers say the constant need to import high-protein feed materials
makes it impossible to supply non-GMO feed on a large scale. However,
there are tentative moves by some EU meat producers towards voluntary
schemes to guarantee non-GMO feed.

Britain's top retailer Tesco Plc said it recognised the difficulty for
its suppliers to guarantee meats that were based on non-GMO feed.

"The farming community have told us that to extend the range of meat we
sell from animals fed on non-GM would put immense pressure on them," it
said on its website.




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