Tuesday, July 5, 2011

New labeling guidance

New guidance paves way to labeling of genetically modified food
By Julian Pecquet
The Hill
July 05, 2011

Food safety regulators from around the world on Tuesday approved food labeling guidance that allows countries to label genetically modified foods without risking to run afoul of international free trade laws.

The Codex Alimentarius Commission, which consists of the world’s food safety regulatory agencies, moved forward with guidance on labeling at the annual Codex summit in Geneva, Switzerland. The guidance was immediately hailed as a historic victory by consumer advocates.

The guidance isn’t mandatory, but its approval by an international body of food safety regulators will protect countries that adopt GM food labeling from the threat of World Trade Organization lawsuits. The commission was created in 1963 to develop international food standards.

“We are particularly pleased that the new guidance recognizes that GM labeling is justified as a tool for post market monitoring,” Michael Hansen, Consumers International’s lead delegate to the regulators’ meeting in Geneva, said in a statement. “This is one of the key reasons we want all GM foods to be required to be labelled — so that if consumers eat modified foods, they will be able to know and report to regulators if they have an allergic or other adverse reaction.”

The organization called the U.S. support for the guidance a “striking reversal,” but the Obama administration disputed that characterization, saying it remains opposed to mandatory labeling.

“The adopted text confirms that Codex labeling texts developed for foods generally, also apply to foods derived from modern biotechnology,” an administration official said. “This adopted text clarifies that foods derived from modern biotechnology are not necessarily different from other foods simply due to their method of production.”

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