At a meeting yesterday the European Commission showed no signs of a U-turn on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), concluding it would proceed with the approval of pending authorisations.
But accepting the divisive opinions on GMOs that currently exist between member states, the Brussels-based body admitted work is required to harmonise the different beliefs.
"The Commission has reflected on the need to develop consensus between all interested parties," the EU institution said in a statement yesterday.
The Commission has come under criticism from environmental and consumer groups that claim Brussels has failed to listen to the GM cynical European consumer; instead pushing through approval for new biotech foods into the system.
Anti-GM campaigners contend the Commission, and certain member states, have caved into pressure from the US. As the world's number one supplier of GM crops, US farmers saw the rich potential European market blocked by an eight year de facto moratorium (ban) on new GM approvals.
The European entry in 2004 of strict labelling rules((EC) 1830/2003 on the Traceability and Labelling of GMOs and (EC) 1829/2003 on Genetically Modified (GM) Food and Feed), places the emphasis on consumer choice, and essentially paving the way to an end to the ban. With the GM ingredient flagged up on the label, the decision to support, or not, biotech foods lies in the hand of the consumer who will vote with his/her wallet.
Public opposition to biotech foods, so-called 'Frankenstein Foods' appears to be strong in Europe. In a poll last year, one hundred days after the new GM labelling rules, environmental campaigners Greenpeace found only a handful of GMO-labelled products are on sale in European supermarkets.
Greenpeace's 'gene detectives' found only four products containing genetically modified ingredients in Germany, two in the UK and the Czech Republic, and none in Italy or Austria. The most GMO-labelled products - 14 - were found in France.
"The market is practically free of products containing GMOs," said Eric Gall of Greenpeace European Unit.
But the new system relies heavily on traceability, and as such has created an extensive paper trail for the Euros 600 billion European food and drink industry.
"Third, fourth, fifth generation food ingredients derived from genetically modified foodstuffs will have to be labelled. A glucose syrup, for example, derived from starch, that in turn hails from a GM maize, will have to be labelled as such," a spokesperson for the European food manufacturers body the CIAA told FoodNavigator.com recently, adding that the industry had argued from the outset that the legislation had gone too far.