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PSRG Urges Stricter Labelling Laws For GE Foods

Physicians and Scientists for Responsible Genetics urge the government to strengthen New Zealand labelling laws on genetically engineered foods (GEFs) to protect the health of its citizens.

There is a paucity of independent testing of GEF safety reflected in reports from the Royal Societies of Canada and Britain, organizations such as the French food safety authority, Assfa, and the British Medical Association. Without full labelling, tracing any ill effect caused by ingesting a GE food or food ingredient will be extremely difficult.

Thirty five countries have laws in place or planned requiring the labelling of GE foods and food ingredients, or that will restrict GE imports.(1)

The Environment Committee of the European Parliament recently voted in favour of more extensive labelling.(2) Their recommendations should be applied in NZ.

The Committee wants the European Union to require labelling for meat, dairy products and highly refined goods such as sugar and soybean oil produced from engineered crops even where no transgenic DNA is detectable. (Current NZ regulations leave highly refined food products exempt from labelling.) The Committee voted to lower the level at which labelling would become mandatory - at 0.5 percent per ingredient instead of 1 percent per ingredient - and to forbid the sale of foods containing GEOs not approved by the EU.

The Environment Committee of the European Union also wants a system whereby a food ingredient is labelled at each step from seed, to grower or producer, to processor. Tracing the integrity of ingredients is already being carried out by NZ food producers marketing GE free food products.

Food processors are listening to consumers. The independent Stiftung Warentest, Germany, says food test results show the use of GE ingredients has lessened. In 2000, tests revealed up to a 20 percent GE content in foodstuffs. Two years later, products which showed a high percentage of GE content in the first tests could not be found in supermarkets or are made with different raw materials now.

Stiftung Warentest detected GE ingredients in 27 of 82 products, in quantities below 0.1 percent. This is significant for NZ consumers. While flavours are allowed to be unlabelled at, or less than, 0.1 percent, the Standard requires labelling only where an ingredient exceeds one percent.

(379 words)


(1) Greenpeace report, "Risky Prospects."

(2) EU Takes Steps to Require More Labeling for GMOs, Brandon Mitchener, The Wall Street Journal, 5-6-2002; The Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology www.pewagbiotech.org.


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