Genetically modified (GM) food and fodder should be clearly labelled and kept separate from non-GM varieties, a key European Parliament committee has voted.
Parliament's Environment Committee voted to toughen draft European Union rules aimed at reassuring consumers they can avoid GM foods if they choose.
The bill, once approved could finally unlock EU approval of scores of new GM crops. The 15-country bloc has not issued a single new GM permit since 1999 when a large minority of Member States vowed to stall approvals pending the new regulations.
The committee endorsed plans, proposed by the European Commission last July, to make sure all food and animal feed made from GM ingredients be labelled as such, even if processing had destroyed any trace of genetic modification.
It voted to extend this requirement to meat, eggs and milk from animals fed on GM fodder.
It deleted a proposal to allow up to one per cent of unauthorised GM strains in non-GM products - effectively banning any contamination by crops that are not allowed in the EU.
Environmentalists hailed the vote as a victory but the bio-tech industry said it hoped the full Parliament would reject many of the amendments when it voted on the issue in July. Parliament shares lawmaking powers with EU Member States.
"It was a vote for common sense, it's very good for consumers and the environment," said Geert Ritsema, Friends of the Earth Europe's GMO campaigner.
Industry body EuropaBio said it wanted a higher threshold for accidental mixing of authorised GM crops with non-GM. The committee voted for a 0.5 per cent maximum, but industry wants more leeway, arguing that rules on organic foods allow up to five per cent non-organic content.
"We think what happened in the environment committee was a (biotech) sceptic vote," EuropBio's Adeline Farrelly said.
Last month a British parliamentary committee said the proposed rules were unworkable.
"It is not practical to legislate for the degree of traceability envisaged by the Commission, particularly for bulk commodity imports such as soya and maize," said the Earl of Selborne who chaired an inquiry into the proposals.