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U.S. Drops Opposition to Voluntary GM Labeling

Codex Alimentarius issues genetically modified labeling guidelines.

Published on: Jul 6, 2011

Regulators from more than 100 countries agreed to label guidelines Tuesday that will make it easier for food manufacturers to say whether their products contain genetically-modified ingredients.

Until now, objections from the U.S. over the past 20 years had presented roadblocks to such labels. On Tuesday the U.S. delegation dropped its opposition to the documents, although the Obama Administration says it remains opposed to mandatory labeling.

"The adopted text confirms that Codex labeling texts developed for foods generally, also apply to foods derived from modern biotechnology," an administration official said. "This adopted text clarifies that foods derived from modern biotechnology are not necessarily different from other foods simply due to their method of production."

The new agreement means that any country wishing to adopt genetically modified food labeling will no longer face the threat of a legal challenge from the World Trade Organization. The guidelines issued by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, a collection of more than 100 agencies that monitor food safety around the world, are voluntary.

Samuel Ochieng, President Emeritus of Consumers International, said that while the agreement fell short of the consumer movement’s long-held demand for mandatory labeling, that it was still a milestone and that this guidance is extremely good news for the worlds’ consumers who want to know what is in the foods on their plates.

"We are particularly pleased that the new guidance recognizes that GM labeling is justified as a tool for post market monitoring," Michael Hansen, Consumers International's lead delegate to the regulators' meeting in Geneva, said in a statement. "This is one of the key reasons we want all GM foods to be required to be labeled so that if consumers eat modified foods, they will be able to know and report to regulators if they have an allergic or other adverse reaction."