- TORONTO - In Europe, the market for genetically modified foods is rapidly
disappearing. There are now eight major food chains that say they will
no longer stock genetically modified food.
- Without labels, many countries have stopped
buying North American food That's causing concern among North American
farmers who worry that soon they may have no market for their crops.
- Genetically modified foods are grown
from seeds that contain genetic material from other plants or organisms.
Gene-altered crops produce soybeans and bug-resistant corn or potatoes.
These products are in turn used to make salad oil, canned stews or crackers.
- In North America, there's no requirement
that these foods be labelled. It's becoming an international trade issue.
- The problem rests largely with the United
States, where most of the GMO foods are grown. The U.S. government supports
the agri-business view that no labelling is required because such foods
- This resulted in a developing trade impasse.
Without labels, many countries are simply not buying.
- The referee in the labelling war is a
World Trade Agency, called the Codex Alimentarius Commission. It has members
from 164 countries and it's job is to harmonize food standards to make
international trade run smoothly.
- But the other part of the Codex mandate
is to protect consumers' health. That's presenting a dilemma.
- Until recently many countries went along
with a U.S.-created definition that genetically modified food does not
need to be labelled as long as it is "substantially equivalent"
to food grown in the traditional manner. But many people say this description
is too vague.
- Julian Edwards is director general of
Consumers International, an umbrella group for consumer organizations from
110 countries. He says not only is the term vague, it contradicts the
way the biotech industry treats genetically modified material.
- "On the one hand they're saying
these products are original, we must be able to patent them to protect
our invention," Edwards says. "On the other hand they are telling
the public these products are just the same as what they're used to."