Changes to toughen current EU legislation on the labelling of genetically modified foods were heavily criticised by Europe's largest biotechnology lobby this week.
Under the new EU law passed by the European Parliament last week, foods or food products with more than 0.5 per cent of a genetically modified ingredient must be labelled.
Simon Barber of EuropaBio said: "The arbitrary reduction to a 0.5 per cent threshold instead of 1 per cent as proposed by the Commission is unrealistic." Cross pollination in the farming environment and mixing in the storage, distribution and processing stages will be inevitable, so these low levels are impossible to achieve, claims EuropaBio.
The new legislation - passed by MEPs but still under review in each Member State - set out to quell current consumer fears over the safety of GM foods. But tests cannot detect all so-called GMOs, so many will end up on supermarket shelves, continued Barber.
A further aspect of the new GM food law will see foods labelled as GMO despite the fact that the processing procedure will have removed all GMO traces, as is the case for some refined oils, and high fructose syrup. EuropaBio maintains that labelling laws should apply only to products where proof is available."Don't try to label something that's not detectable," Barber said.
He added that the labelling law is also flawed because it does not cover food processing aids such as enzymes. These substances - used to make bread, cheese, wine and beer - could be made from genetically modified products. But, since they are not considered to be food ingredients, they do not have to be labelled.
The debate on the labelling of genetically modified organisms certainly gained impetus last week when the European Parliament passed the new law. GMOs are a highly contentious issue in society today with many conflicting interests defending their positions. The highly competitive food industry will ensure that the debate is never far from the ears of legislators and consumers.