Codex debate over biotechnology definition goes full circle

By Sarah Hills

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Codex alimentarius, Food, Codex alimentarius commission

After years of debate around the issue of labelling of genetically modified or engineered foods the Codex Committee on Food Labelling has decided to abandon work on a definition of the term biotechnology.

It had been argued by some that adopting a compilation of Codex texts did not go far enough to give the needed guidance on labelling of GM/GE foods and that a definition was still needed in the standard as it made reference to biotechnology in relation to allergens.

Codex texts are voluntary benchmarks for the food industry that help harmonise national food legislation and regulation

But whilst agreeing on the compilation of texts applicable to GM/GE food labelling, the committee decided at its recent 39th Session to abandon work on a definition of the term biotechnology for inclusion in the General Standard for the Labelling of Prepackaged Foods.

This was because, it was argued, that such definitions were already included in the existing Codex texts on biotechnology.

The International Alliance of Dietary/Food Supplement Associations (IADSA) has been monitoring the Codex discussions on this issue as GMO ingredients are also used in food supplement products.

It said the decision amounted to Codex “abandoning” its definition and labelling work on GMOs.

David Pineda Ereño, IADSA’s regulatory affairs director, told FoodNavigator.com: “Since Codex could not reach a consensus on this issue after more than ten years of discussion, it was agreed not to develop specific Codex provisions on the definition and labelling of GMOs and to develop a compilation of Codex texts relating to the labelling of foods derived from modern biotechnology instead.”

He added that it ends “years of discussion in which the CCFL was divided between those proposing process-based GMO labelling and those proposing that GMOs should be declared on the label only when they are present in the final product”.

The Codex Alimentarius Commission was established by the UN Food and Agricultural Organization and the World Health Organization and its internationally recognized food standards help ensure consumer health and fair trade practices.

A spokesperson for Codex and the FAO told FoodNavigator.com: “At the 39th session we achieved agreement on a Compilation of Codex texts relevant to labelling of foods derived from modern biotechnology (still to be adopted by the Commission in July).

“Concerning definitions, this text will refer to the already adopted Principles for the Risk Analysis of Foods Derived from Modern Biotechnology (CAC/GL 44-2003), which contain relevant definitions and thus do not need to be repeated.”

He added that when the work on this topic started some years ago there were no definitions of biotechnology in Codex at all, and it was planned that any guidance on labelling foods derived from biotechnology would become part of the General Standard for Labelling of Prepackaged Foods.

However, the spokesman said: “Now the situation is different and this was the main argument for discontinuation.”

Related topics: Policy

2 comments

Go Local and Organic

Posted by Susan Horn,

It is imperative that consumers support local organic agricultural producers as stated in the first post. Our money goes further and directly to the producer. The food is fresher, lasts longer and it supports our local economies. Know your producer and also grow as much of your food as possible. Container gardening, window gardens, and other methods work well for home food production.

Report abuse

Feed Us What You Want

Posted by melissa putt,

So basically this another way for Codex to impose modified, engineered foods on us with the consumer having no voice in the matter. Rise up. Support local organic farmers. Refuse to buy into a food system with hidden processes. Codex can impose their will but consumer purchasing power speaks louder.

Report abuse

Follow us

Featured Events

View more

Products

View more

Webinars