Questions over EU plan to label organic food 'GM free'

Published: Sunday 15 July 2007

European agriculture ministers have decided that organic food can be labelled' gm-free' even if it contains up to 0.9 per cent of genetically-modified (gm) contents.

The decision has upset environmental groups and supporters of organic farming, who say it would otherwise lead to "genetic contamination".

At a meeting in Luxembourg, the ministers supported the European Commission's arguments that attempting to lower the limit of gm content would be impractical. Up to 0.9 per cent limit will be adequate for the "accidental or technically unavoidable presence" of gm contents in food they said. Setting a lower limit of 0.1 per cent, the lowest level at which gm contents could be scientifically detected, would place standards that would make organic produce too expensive."Producing organic products by avoiding any kind of accidental gm contamination will be so expensive that it will damage the market completely," said eu agriculture commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel. "The labelling agreement would," she said, "give consumers assurances of precisely what they are buying".

Environmental groups refuse to buy the logic. "This lax attitude of the commission and some member states disregards the preferences of European consumers... it may put the whole organic sector at risk," Greenpeace says in a media statement. Because in practice, "low levels of gm material could start slipping into all organic food," it says.

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