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Germany: Call for comprehensive GMO labelling

(23 January 2010) Top representatives of the German food industry and the German Farmers’ Association are calling for more comprehensive GMO labelling. At the same time, they have criticised the "GM-free" stamp as being "dishonest".

The CEO of the National Federation of the German Food Industry (BVE), Matthias Horst, told one of Germany’s leading newspapers, the Süddeutsche Zeitung, that if genetic engineering has been involved in the production of a product, then this must be stated on the product’s label. His sector wants "transparency" and is for the positive labelling of genetically modified food. Any product that has had any type of contact whatsoever with genetic engineering should be labelled accordingly.

Many current widespread uses of genetic engineering do not fall under mandatory labelling regulations, such as the milk, eggs or meat coming from animals given genetically modified feed. Likewise for additives, vitamins and enzymes derived from genetically modified microorganisms. Even "incidental, technically unavoidable" admixtures of genetically modified plants – especially widespread in foods containing soya – are not required to be labelled. If that were the case, an estimated 60 percent of the food products on German shelves would have to be so labelled.

Gerhard Sonnleitner, president of the German Farmers’ Association, also spoke out critically against current labelling regulations at the International Green Week in Berlin, Germany. He called for a "clear decision": either all uses of genetic engineering throughout the entire production chain be declared on the end product or go back to the product-related labelling, in force in the EU up to 2004, which only required labelling of the use of genetically modified organisms if their presence could be detected in the food product.

Sonnleitner called "GM-free" labelling "dishonest". It is "misleading" when the vitamins, enzymes and vaccines produced with genetic engineering that are used in animal husbandry do not need to be declared. All feed today contains traces of genetic engineering. Yet milk and meat derived from that is allowed to carry a "GM-free" stamp.

No changes to current labelling regulations can be expected in the near future. Comprehensive labelling as called for by environmental and consumer associations could only be carried out at the European level. Even if there were to be a majority ruling in the European Parliament and among EU Member States, the legislative process required would take several years.


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