GeneWatch PR: GeneWatch UK welcomes MEPs' vote to give consumers choice about GM food

For Immediate release - Wednesday 3rd July 2002

MEPs in the EU Parliament today voted to reflect the concerns of consumers about genetically modified (GM) food. The new rules mean that all GM food and animal feed ingredients will now be labelled.

Currently, only products which contain GM DNA and/or protein have to be labelled. The new rules mean that products such as vegetable oil, found in a huge range of processed foods, will now also have to be labelled. They also mean that the rules for human food labelling will also apply to animal feed.

Furthermore, there will now be an onus on those handling GM foods to trace them through the food chain. Currently, it is left to those companies trying to provide consumers with a non-GM food to trace these products and make sure they are kept separate from the GM foods.

The MEPs also voted that this labelling should apply if an ingredient is 0.5% or more GM. The EU Commission had recommended 1% and some in industry had argued for 5%. GeneWatch believes that 0.5% is a realistic legal level as many in industry already work to 0.1% and this gives them a margin for error whilst ensuring the strictest standards for consumers.

Becky Price of GeneWatch UK said:

"This is a real victory for the 70.9% of EU consumers who have said they do not want to eat GM food and the 94% that want the right to choose about these foods.

"Today MEPs have recognised the uncertainty and real concerns people have about these foods. One of the biggest problems in the past had been the very sudden use of GM ingredients in most processed foods. It is now the case that if a company wants to introduce a GM food it must be traced through the entire food chain. That way, everyone in the food industry can be made aware that a GM ingredient is present.

"These rules bring legislation into line with what is actually already happening in practice as many supermarkets and food producers have removed GM derived ingredients from their products because consumers didn’t want to be eating GM food unknowingly.

"Disturbingly, the UK Government and the Food Standards Agency have failed to recognise consumer concerns. They have continually backed the position of the US Government and the biotechnology industry in opposing these rules. They tried to propose a GM-Free label which would have left companies that never wanted GM foods having to pay for the privilege of proving their products were not GM.

For further information please contact:

Becky Price on 01298 871898 or email

Notes For Editors:

  1. 1. Public opinion supports the new regulations
    • A 2001 Eurobarometer survey showed that :
      • 94% of Europeans want the a right to choose whether to eat GM food
      • 85.9% want to know more about GM foods before eating them
      • 70.9% do not want to eat this type of food at all.
    • UK based research carried out by the National Consumer’s Association specifically considering these proposed regulations showed that:
      • 64% of consumers want labelling of ingredients made from GM plants
      • 56% still want this labelling if all traces of the GM raw materials were destroyed during the food processing
      • 79% think that meat and other products from animals fed with GM feed should be labelled
      • 55% want a contamination threshold figure of less than 1%
      • a third (34%) wanted zero contamination.
  2. 2. GeneWatch UK has produced 2 briefings for MEPs on the traceability and labelling of GM food and animal feed. These can be found on the GeneWatch website

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