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CONSUMERS & REGULATION: Codex Alimentarius guidelines adopted to allow for labelling of world’s GM foods



                                  PART 1


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TITLE:   VOLUNTARY GUIDELINES TO ALLOW FOR LABELLING OF WORLD?S GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOODS

SOURCE:  The Globe and Mail, Canada

AUTHOR:  Gloria Galloway

URL:     http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/voluntary-guidelines-to-allow-for-labelling-of-worlds-genetically-modified-foods/article2087743/

DATE:    05.07.2011

SUMMARY: "A 20-year international battle to prevent food labels from revealing the presence of genetically modified ingredients has ended, but Canadian consumers will continue to be left in the dark. On Tuesday, the United States dropped its opposition to guidelines from the world?s food safety regulatory agencies on the labelling of food derived from modern biotechnology. Canada, like the United States, is among the largest international producers of genetically modified food, but it gave up the fight last year after arguing against GM labelling for more than a decade."

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VOLUNTARY GUIDELINES TO ALLOW FOR LABELLING OF WORLD?S GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOODS

A 20-year international battle to prevent food labels from revealing the presence of genetically modified ingredients has ended, but Canadian consumers will continue to be left in the dark.

On Tuesday, the United States dropped its opposition to guidelines from the world?s food safety regulatory agencies on the labelling of food derived from modern biotechnology.

Canada, like the United States, is among the largest international producers of genetically modified food, but it gave up the fight last year after arguing against GM labelling for more than a decade.

But the guidelines issued by the Codex Alimentarius Commission ? a collection of more than 100 agencies that monitor food safety around the world ? are voluntary. And Health Canada, which is responsible for food safety in this country, has no plans to require labels on food sold here to be rewritten to indicate the presence of genetically modified organisms.

Stephane Shank, a Health Canada spokesman, said his department would require labelling of GM food products only if there was a clear, scientifically established health risk, or if the genetic modification significantly altered the nutritional value.

?To date,? he said, ?Health Canada has not identified health risks associated with GM foods that have been approved for sale in Canada.?

Nearly 70 per cent of the foods that Canadians eat have genetically modified components, and most scientists agree there is no valid research to prove they pose any sort of health threat.

But many developing countries still want the right to inform consumers about GM ingredients.

So the news that the Codex agencies, which met on Tuesday in Geneva, would be issuing GM labelling guidelines was ?a huge global victory for consumers around the world, for food sovereignty of nations around the world in the global fight over the future of genetic engineering,? said Lucy Sharratt, the co-ordinator of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network.

?The U.S. was bent on making sure these guidelines did not happen,? she said. ?And Canada, at very many points, had supported the U.S. position of sabotaging the negotiations and stopping the guidelines.?

The Codex agencies also agreed that each country has the right to adopt its own approach to labelling GM food.

As a result, countries that wish to adopt GM labelling can now do so without facing the threat of a legal challenge from the World Trade Organization. National measures based on Codex guidelines cannot be challenged as a barrier to trade.

Ms. Sharratt said Canada?s opposition to GM labelling in other countries ended as a result of public outcry. But she said she does not expect the fight to require GM labels in Canada to end soon.

?There has been over 15 years worth of protests whereby Canadian consumers have demanded mandatory labelling and there are at least nine polls since 1999 that show over 80 per cent of Canadians want mandatory labelling of all genetically modified food,? Ms. Sharratt said, ?and the government has steadfastly refused to label genetically modified foods.?

Although she agrees there is no evidence of health-safety problems, Ms. Sharratt also said it has been a difficult issue to study because GM food is not labelled and, therefore, cannot be monitored.

Sylvain Charlebois, a professor at the University of Guelph west of Toronto who is an expert on food safety and distribution, said he believes consumers deserve transparency.

?It?s really about risk perceptions, not actual risk,? Dr. Charlebois said. ?We need to demystify [genetically modified organisms] in general. And by adopting a policy that would actually make labelling mandatory, I think it would force the food industry to educate the public.?



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:   GM FOOD LABELLING WIN IS CONSUMER RIGHTS WIN AS US ENDS OPPOSITION

SOURCE:  Consumers International, USA

AUTHOR:  Press Release

URL:     http://www.consumersinternational.org/news-and-media/news/2011/07/gm-labelling-victory-as-us-ends-opposition

DATE:    05.07.2011

SUMMARY: "Consumers International and its member organisations celebrated victory today as regulators from more than 100 countries agreed on long overdue guidance on the labelling of genetically modified food. The Codex Alimentarius Commission, made up of the world?s food safety regulatory agencies, has been labouring for two decades to come up with consensus guidance on this topic. In a striking reversal of their previous position, on Tuesday, during the annual Codex summit in Geneva, the US delegation dropped its opposition to the GM labelling guidance document, allowing it to move forward and become an official Codex text."

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GM FOOD LABELLING WIN IS CONSUMER RIGHTS WIN AS US ENDS OPPOSITION

- Twenty year struggle within global food safety body ends with ?consumer rights milestone?

- Move clears way for greater monitoring of the effects of GM organisms

Consumers International (CI) and its member organisations celebrated victory today as regulators from more than 100 countries agreed on long overdue guidance on the labelling of genetically modified (GM) food.

The Codex Alimentarius Commission, made up of the world?s food safety regulatory agencies, has been labouring for two decades to come up with consensus guidance on this topic.

GM-labelling-victory

No legal opposition to GM labelling

In a striking reversal of their previous position, on Tuesday, during the annual Codex summit in Geneva, the US delegation dropped its opposition to the GM labelling guidance document, allowing it to move forward and become an official Codex text.

The new Codex agreement means that any country wishing to adopt GM food labelling will no longer face the threat of a legal challenge from the World Trade Organization (WTO). This is because national measures based on Codex guidance or standards cannot be challenged as a barrier to trade.

This will have immediate implications for consumers. Edita Vilcapoma of the Peruvian consumer group ASPEC, representing Consumers International at the Codex meeting in Geneva, said:

?Peru?s recent introduction of GM food labelling faced the threat of a legal challenge from the WTO. This new Codex agreement now means that this threat has gone and the consumer right to be informed has been secured. This is major victory for the global consumer movement.?

GM health monitoring

The agreement also recognises the enormous health monitoring benefits of giving consumers transparent information about the presence of GM foods. Consumers International?s lead delegate at Codex, and a senior scientist at Consumers Union of the United States, Dr Michael Hansen, stated:

?We are particularly pleased that the new guidance recognises that GM labelling is justified as a tool for post market monitoring. This is one of the key reasons we want all GM foods to be required to be labelled - so that if consumers eat modified foods, they will be able to know and report to regulators if they have an allergic or other adverse reaction.?

African consumers for GM labelling

The labelling milestone is particularly welcomed by CI member organisations in Africa, who have been fighting on behalf of their consumers for the right to be informed about GM food. Samuel Ochieng, President Emeritus of Consumers International and CEO of the Consumer Information Network of Kenya said:

?While the agreement falls short of the consumer movement?s long-held demand for endorsement of mandatory GM food labelling, this is still a significant milestone for consumer rights. We congratulate Codex on agreeing on this guidance, which has been sought by consumers and regulators in African countries for nearly twenty years. This guidance is extremely good news for the worlds? consumers who want to know what is in the foods on their plates?.