GENTECH archive 8.96-97

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Novel Foods Regulation - Press Release



The following message is for immediate release. For more details contact the office of the Dutch Natural Law Party at *31 (320) 25 81 81, or reply to sender.

Jan Storms.



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European Parliament approves Novel Foods Regulation
Open-ended regulation takes consumers' freedom away
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In 1989 tryptophane tablets that were produced with genetically engineered bacteria made thousands of people in the US ill. 1500 of them are permanently disabled. 38 people died. Yet the tryptophane was 99,6% pure, and according to the manufacturer did not differ significantly from tryptophane obtained without genetic engineering. If this product were submitted to enter the European market today it would simply fly through approval procedures and be considered Œsubstantially EQUIVALENT¹.

Equivalence is a nebulous concept, without scientific basis. It is used by the industry to be able to quickly introduce novel foods on the market without labeling. From a scientific point of view gene-spliced foods are not identical to natural foods. The Novel Foods Regulation which the European Parliament adopted yesterday relies on assessment of EQUIVALENCE for simplified admission to market and not requiring labeling for gene-spliced products. In short: the European Parliament yesterday opened the door to new catastrophes like the one with the genetically engineered tryptophane.

Under the new regulation, the majority of genetically manipulated products are likely to come on the market without being labeled as such. All polls in the European Union show that the majority of consumers don¹t want genetically engineered products. Yesterday however, the parliament took away the freedom from the people to choose not to buy genetically engineered foods. If the public in the different countries of the European Union feel let down, that feeling is entirely justified.

There is little experience with the efffects of gene-spliced foods on health, and there is no experience with long-term effects. Over and above that, no amount of testing can prove these products are 100% safe. Most consumers would want to err on the side of caution and avoid any risk that may be associated with this technology.

The Natural Law Party holds that people have the inalienable right to decide what kind of care and caution they want to apply in their own lives. By approving the present Novel Foods Directive, the parliamentarians said NO to millions of people they ought to represent. There was a feeling among many parliamentarians that after several years of dispute with the Commission they finally had to get this behind them and go with the compromise reached in the Conciliation Committee. But no matter how badly a regulation was needed, that could not have meant we needed a bad regulation. This bill is worded so ambiguously and is so open-ended that it gives the European Commission carte blanche to regulate--or not regulate--genetically engineered foods in any way that they choose.

What can we expect from the Commission now they have secured this power? The Commission¹s Draft Guidelines for the Competent Authorities on Implementation of the Novel Foods Regulation provides detailed--and disturbing--information on this topic. Not surprisingly, in light of its contents and in light of the past record of the Commission on this issue (they approved genetically manipulated soy beans and maize wihout adequate safety testing), this document is inaccessible to the public and available to Members of the European Parliament only with great difficulty. Because of this, most Members of the European Parliament will have voted on the Novel Foods Regulation without understanding fully its ramifications for the safety of consumers and for consumers¹ right to make informed food purchases.

With this inadequate regulation in place, there will be a protracted struggle between the agrochemical industry, trying to push its products on the market, and the consumers, battling for their right to choose the unmanipulated food they want. Jan Storms, director of the scientific bureau of the Natural Law Party of the Netherlands and Dr. John Fagan, professor in molecular biology and a prominent critic of genetic manipulation who advises the Natural Law Parties, wrote in a letter to the Members of Parliament: ŒThe International Council of Natural Law Parties supports legislation that would require that all gene-spliced products be tested rigorously to assure safety and that they be clearly labeled, without exception. Labeling is practically possible on the basis of separation of genetically altered products, and certification of non-manipulated products. Rigorous testing procedures capable of distinguishing natural and genetically altered ingredients are available. The logistics to segregate gene-spliced products from natural ones are straightforward, and already being implemented quietly in the US based on consumer demand. There is no excuse for not systematically implementing these measures through legislation in Europe.¹

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Vriendelijke groeten,

Jan Storms

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   bestuurslid, directeur wetenschappelijk bureau  Natuurwetpartij
       member of the board, director of the scientific bureau
             Natural Law Party of the Netherlands
 Rivierenlaan 166, 8226 LH Lelystad, tel. 0320-258181, fax 0320-258155
        <info@natuurwetpartij.nl> =AD KvK Roermond V177563
                 <http://www.natuurwetpartij.nl>
  Persoonlijk:  <http://www.pi.net/~jstorms/> - <jstorms@pi.net>
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