NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

New Rules on Genetically Modified Crops

September 11, 2003

The European Parliament voted earlier this summer to change the way it regulates gene-splicing, or genetic modification (GM) technology, possibly opening the way for approvals of new gene-spliced crops and foods. The European Union's spin is that this "progress" should induce the United States and other complainants to drop their World Trade Organization grievance against EU regulation.

However, the legislation makes the EU an even less hospitable environment for gene-splicing, not a better one, say researchers Henry I. Miller (Hoover Institution) and Gregory Conko (Competitive Enterprise Institute).

  • The Parliament's action does not actually repeal Europe's 5-year moratorium, nor does it change the voting structure that allows a minority of European countries to refuse registration of new gene-spliced products.
  • The new legislation does contain Draconian new requirements, including strict labeling that requires gene-spliced foods to be identified, the segregation of gene-spliced from conventional products, and "traceability," so gene-spliced ingredients can be traced back to the farm where they were grown.

The labeling and traceability rules have nothing to do with protecting consumer health or the natural environment, a fact acknowledged even by EU Minister for Health and Consumer Protection David Byrne.

The new labeling and traceability regime does no more than the old to promote consumer choice. It will, however, make it prohibitively expensive and complicated for growers of gene-spliced crops to comply with the rules, say the researchers.

Source: Henry I. Miller and Gregory Conko, "Precaution without principle," Washington Times, September 10, 2003.

 

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