Hearing on the Labelling of New Types of Food

On 16 January 2008, BIO Deutschland took part in the hearing on "Regulations on New Types of Food Products – Labelling of GM-Free Feed in Animal Products" at the Standing Committee for Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection at the Lower House of the German Parliament (Bundestag). The issue for discussion concerned the planned amendment of the regulation by which it will be permitted to label food products as "GM-free". The plan is to replace the very rigid regulation in force to date, which is hardly used in Germany, with a new regulation that will allow the GM-free label to be used for products that come from animals which were fed (over a certain period of time) with GM-free manufactured feedstuffs. The use of genetic engineering in other animal husbandry and animal food product manufacturing is not supposed to be included in the label. This means that the label "GM-free" does not exclude, for example, the use of recombinant medication and feed and food additives produced with the use of genetic engineering, such as vitamins and amino acids, in animal husbandry and food production.

Three main groups emerged over the course of the hearing:

  • Those who believed that the draft regulation would be acceptable if the "GM-free" label were replaced by, for instance, the label "GM-free feedstuff".
  • Those who were of the opinion that the original rigid regulation should be maintained as any amendment would only confuse consumers.
  • Those who agreed with the draft regulation as it stands.

The possible effects of the new draft regulation on consumer demand were also discussed. In this context, the representative of the Austrian Working Group for GM-Free Food was able to report on experiences in his country. The largest dairy in Austria registered a drop in turnover of 6% before the introduction of labelling on GM. In the meantime – and despite a price increase of €0.15 per litre – there has been a 12% increase in turnover in milk labelled as "GM-Free".

In this regard, the German Raiffeisen Association added that the supply of "GM-free" feedstuffs is significantly higher than demand. At the same time, there are not enough "GM-free" feedstuffs to feed all animals in Germany. In particular, protein feed (soya) is scarcely available any more as a non-GM product. The demand for protein feedstuff in Europe accounts for a fifth of the demand worldwide and is declining. As a result, it is to be expected that an increasing trend away from the use of GM soya products in Europe will not significantly affect global demand.

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