GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISMS AND
COORDINATION OF GOVERNMENT POLICY
Labelling for process
50. It is Government's policy that every product
containing GMOs, or GM materials (protein or DNA) should be clearly
labelled to enable consumers to make informed decisions about
the food they eat.
The Government is pressing the Commission for detailed labelling
rules also on additives and on animal feed. The Government stated
that all Member States and the European Parliament agreed that
labelling should be triggered by the presence of GM material with
agreement on a de minimis level yet to be agreed.
51. This principle satisfies the concerns of those
who do not want to eat GMOs or GM materials (above as yet undetermined
thresholds). A further level of consumer choice might be provided
by the labelling of all products derived from GM technology (logically
this approach would extend to processes involving GM enzymes or
non-food products such as jeans made of GM 'blue' cotton when
and if they come available). This would allow the consumer to
reject the technology on grounds other than health and safety
(religious, ethical or environmental) and is termed "labelling
for process". The Government's memorandum described a statutory
requirement to label ingredients which did not actually contain
GM materials as "unenforceable". Some have argued that
this approach would be meaningless and carry the implication that
all food have labels identifying what fertilisers, pesticides,
herbicides etc. were used in its production.
We accept that such a requirement would be difficult to enforce,
having to rely on audit rather than detection, but this is not
an insurmountable objection and there are existing voluntary marketing
approaches for other foods that rely on similar methods of verification.
Indeed Mr Rooker gave us the example of beef labelled for method
of slaughter and the more familiar example of eggs labelled for
method of production was also suggested.
52. We believe that there is likely to be an ever-growing
demand for information about the food we eat - both about its
constituent ingredients and the processes by which it has
been produced and the wider impacts that those processes have
(from ethical coffee to environmental tea). The market may
be relied on to attempt to meet that demand and increasing numbers
of producers and retailers have responded to recent concerns over
GM foods by removing GMOs from shelves and from products. It is
vital that voluntary labels, and other initiatives, are understandable
and consistent and backed up by verifiable audit trails. We recognise
that a requirement to label for process with regard to GM-derived
foods may not be a cost-effective answer to the need at the moment.
Whilst recognising the difficulties in securing labelling for
process we regard it as a valuable goal and urge the Government
to work with industry to achieve it.
93 Ev p63 Back
11, paragraph 137 Back
95 Q391 Back