Food Law News - EU - 1999

22 October 1999: GM FOODS - Commission proposes de minimis threshold and labelling rules for GMOs

Commission Press Release (Ip/99/783), 22 October 1999

Commission proposes de minimis threshold and labelling rules for GMOs

The Standing Committee for Foods has given a favourable opinion on two Commission draft Regulations concerning the issue of GMO labelling. These measures would enhance legal certainty for both operators and consumers, firstly by introducing a de minimis labelling threshold of 1% of ingredients individually considered, and secondly by making foods containing GMO additives and flavourings produced from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) subject to the same labelling rules as those of the Novel Foods Regulation. The draft measures do not intend to lay down rules for the use of labelling claims of the "GMO-free" type.
GMO labelling threshold

First, the Commission has proposed completing the present labelling rules with a Commission Regulation laying down a de minimis threshold for the accidental content of genetically modified material.

Foods and food ingredients produced from GMOs have to be labelled according to Regulation (EC) No 258/97 (Novel Foods Regulation) and Regulation (EC) No 1139/98 (labelling of two particular GM soya and maize products). This means that they have to be labelled when they contain protein or DNA resulting from genetic modification.

The threshold aims at solving the problem faced by operators who have tried to avoid GMOs but who due to accidental contamination still find themselves with a low percentage of GM material in their products. It will thus offer legal certainty to those operators.

The proposed threshold applies only to material already authorised for human consumption in the European Union (EU), and may be applied subject to the following conditions:

The draft measure does not aim at laying down rules for the use of labelling claims of the type "GMO-free". To this end, the Commission is currently studying the contents of possible EU legislation in the area.

Foods containing Additives and flavourings produced from GMOs

The Commission has also put forward draft labelling rules for foods containing additives and flavourings produced from GMOs.

Additives and flavourings are excluded from the Novel Foods Regulation because their safety requirements are already laid down in specific legislation (Directives 89/107/EEC and 88/388/EEC for additives and flavourings, respectively). However, this had until now the undesired effect that foods containing additives and flavourings produced from GMOs were not subject to the labelling rules laid down by the Regulation.

The proposal is a draft Commission Regulation to ensure that foodstuffs that contain GMO-derived additives or flavourings are labelled in the same way as those which contain other genetically modified ingredients, i.e.:

The Commission is expected to adopt the measures around the end of the year.

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