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REGULATION / FOOD: UN Codex labelling committee to discuss GM,organics

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE:  Codex labelling committee to discuss GM, organics
SOURCE: Food Navigator, France
AUTHOR: Jess Halliday
DATE:   26.03.2007

Codex labelling committee to discuss GM, organics

26/03/2007 - The agenda for the 35th meeting of the Codex Committee on
Food Labelling includes items on two of the most emotive issues for
consumers and industry - genetically modified foods and organic foods.

The meeting, taking place in Ottawa, Canada, from April 30 to May 4,
forms part of an ongoing programme to create international food safety
standards under the Codex Alimentarius, a body set up by the Food and
Agricultural Organisation and the World Health Organisation.

The establishment of a taskforce on GM food in 1999 led to the
establishment of four key documents and consensus on the principles of
traceability, but labelling has been on the table at Codex since 1988
and remains a contentious issue.

In particular, delegates at next month's meeting will discuss a draft
amendment to the General Standards for Labelling of Prepackaged Foods
with respect to definitions for foods obtained through genetic
modification or genetic engineering. This draft is presently at step seven.

In the 2005 committee reporter, the definitions for the terms 'food and
food ingredients obtained through certain techniques of genetic
modification / genetic engineering', 'organism', 'genetically modified /
engineered organism', and 'modern biotechnology'.

But it said: "The terminology used in this section on definitions should
not determine the terminology which is appropriate for use on food labels."

At step four and also up for debate are the Proposed Guidelines for the
Labelling for Foods and Food Ingredients Obtained through Certain
Techniques of Genetic Modification/Genetic Engineering: Labelling Provisions.

At the IFT conference last July Peggy Rochette, director of
international policy at the Food Products Association (FPA) told
delegates that global agreement was a long way off.

"This underscores the long standing differences in global views for even
the most basic approach to food labelling," she said.

A USDA report set out three potential scenarios for GM food in the year 2015.

The rosy view is that biotechnology is embraced globally, along the
lines of the US's science-based approach. A second view, called
'continental islands', sees GM food products being traded universally
within continents, but without any real global harmonisation.

The third view is that 'biotech goes niche'. In other words, the
barriers that currently inhibit the global trade of GM food products, be
they regulatory or consumer-based, are never overcome.

With respect to organics, items of the agenda are the draft revised
annex for the Guidelines for the Production, Processing, Labelling and
Marketing of Organically Produced Foods (part one and part two of table
3); government comments on table 3; and a proposed draft revision to
annex two concerning natural sodium nitrate; and a proposed draft
amendment on the addition of ethylene.

Delegates will also discuss a proposed draft definition of advertising
in relation to nutrition and health claims: "Advertising: any
representation to the public, by any means other than a label, that is
intended or is likely to influence and shape attitude, beliefs and
behaviours in order to promote directly or indirectly the sale of the food."

Health claims is a particularly pertinent issue in the EU at present,
given the new legislation on health and nutrition claims.

Unlike the new legislation Codex does not have the force of law behind
it. However it is used as a reference point for countries that are
looking at revising or creating legislation. Moreover, it is also used
as a point of reference by the World Trade Organisation when a dispute
arises between two members.

Other items on the agenda include a proposed draft amendment to the
General Standards for Labelling of Prepackaged Foods: Quantitative
Declaration of Ingredients. A working group on the proposal will also
convene as part of the meeting.

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