Disagreeable rules

Published: Tuesday 31 December 1996

MUCH controversy later, EU countries have finally agreed upon rules to allow the sales of genetically engineered products. While food companies are naturally relieved at the outcome, the Eu decision has sparked off protests among environmentalists who have campaigned for long against the import of such products into the region. Even Austria and Germany supported the eco-groups and called for tough rules as the products could harm human health.

In a nutshell, the new Eu rules allow for 'novel' products, as the genetically engineered products are identified, to be marketed without any special label. However, companies will have to label all 'live' products - those products which could theoretically grow if put in soil like tomatoes, potatoes and strawberries. Products containing ingredients which have been genetically engineered and are markedly different from the conventional products, need to be labelled. The criterion does not apply to those products which are 'chemically' not different from the conventional food products after processing, in spite of having engineered ingredients.

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