Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Monday, May 12, 2003
Agri-Biz & Commodities
Bio-tech & Genetics
Row over FAO proposal on GM food labelling
CHENNAI, May 11
DAIRY and poultry players, especially exporters, see red in a proposal put forth on traceability and labelling of genetically-modified (GM) foods by the task force of the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) on animal feeding. But a section of those opposed to GM organisms feels the draft code of task force to the Codex Commission is on the right track.
In the eye of the storm is the draft code of "Practice on good animal feeding", almost finalised at a sitting in Copenhagen, Denmark recently by the task force. The draft, now forwarded to the Codex Commission, is set for approval towards the end of next month.
The task force members, including representatives from India, have come up with the proposal to ensure that food consumed by humans is safe. The task force wants this done by making sure that animals are fed with food that will not lead to any side effects to humans consuming them.
The task force has laid guidelines for procurement, handling, storage, processing, and distribution of animal feed and feed ingredients for food-producing animals.
Called the Code of Practice, it will apply to the production and use of all materials destined for animal feed and feed ingredients at all levels whether produced industrially or on farm. It also includes grazing or free-range feeding, forage crop production and aquaculture.
What has become objectionable to dairy and poultry players is the labelling norm.
"We in India will have a problem as Bt cotton has now been allowed and cotton seed sake is widely used by the dairy farmers as well as some of the feed mills. In times to come other GM crops will also be released and if India has to be a major player in the animal sector, we need to oppose the GM traceability and labelling guidelines or a developing country like India will have to pay a heavy price for this," industry sources said.
The code calls for proper procedures to trace feed and feed ingredients through proper labelling and record keeping at all stages of production and distribution.
This should facilitate the prompt trace-back or trace-forward of materials and products if any actual or potential health risks are identified. It should also help in and prompt and complete withdrawal or recall of products whenever necessary.
Those opposed to GM organisms welcome the draft. "It will ensure that any animal feed is not tainted," they said. The US is one of the countries against the proposal and the US lobby is seen trying to build an opinion among dairy and poultry farmers against the draft code.
"Naturally, US corn imported to India and other developing countries will come under microscope through this proposal. It is one of the reasons that an opinion is being built against the task force proposal," they said.
FAO said in its Web site that the task force had a substantive debate on the necessity of labelling GM and derived products. The mandate of the Codex Committee on Food Labelling will be limited to labelling issues relating to food.
At the Copenhagen meet, some task force members pointed out that labelling of foods derived from GMOs had not been decided at the relevant Commission bodies yet and that there was no need to single out the labelling of individual technologies in this Code of Practice. But other delegates favoured labelling of feed and feed ingredients derived from new technologies as "it is an important risk management measure and allows consumers to make an informed choice".
Besides, the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand are opposed to the decision on labelling.
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