By some reckoning, food items at the grocery store will soon carry more labels than a NASCAR driver's jump suit. Consumers already can get various and essential nutritional information from food labels. Now there are moves afoot to add trans-fat content and country of origin labels.
Meanwhile, overseas, the Europeans have unveiled a labeling program of a different sort ... and one that's not being universally well-received.
This week, the European Union Parliament passed laws that lift the five-year old moratorium on the importation of unapproved genetically modified organisms. The new laws replace the trading blockade with a stringent labeling scheme, as well as tight tolerances for contents.
Once adopted, any food containing more than point nine percent (.9%) transgenic products must be labeled as containing GMOs. The law further requires anything made with transgenic ingredients not detectable in the final product, for example soy oil, must be labeled as having engineered ingredients. One of the measures also requires records be kept by every member of the production stream, from farm to point of sale, for five years.
The new edicts are being enacted in light of a recently released study by the International Council for Science stating that GM foods are as safe to eat as their conventional counterparts.
The EU Environment Commissioner hailed the new rules as answering "the most critical concerns of the public."
US producers and politicians are not at all happy with the new laws. A representative of the American Soybean Association called the measure "not workable and unenforceable" and referred to it as a barrier to trade.
Officials at the American Farm Bureau stated the laws make "a bad situation worse."
And the office of the United States Trade Representative responded by stating "Today's ruling doesn't lift the EU's illegal moratorium on biotech products..." because it is not based on scientific analysis and it blocks consumer choices. USTR also feels "it may prompt a host of new non-tariff trade barriers just when we are trying to stimulate global trade."
Despite the new rules, the USTR is not dropping its GMO case against the EU which currently is before the World Trade Organization because the new laws are, in effect, the same ban under different rules.