Europe: Protests Against GE Foods Spread Across Continent

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- In time for the spring planting season, the pressure group Friends of the Earth Europe is launching its biggest ever campaign on foods and crops made from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in 22 countries across Europe.

The campaign aims to safeguard for the people of Europe "the right to choose GM-free food, to grow GM-free crops and to protect GM-free habitats," the group said.

The European Parliament should back Member David Bowe's calls for stricter controls on the commercialization of genetically modified crops and other organisms used in the environment, Friends of the Earth Europe (FoEE) said Tuesday.

FoEE is urging the parliament to ban gene flow through cross-pollination of wild plant relatives, to prohibit antibiotic resistance marker genes and to introduce specific civil liability rules into the directive.

It also wants a European Union public register of farms cultivating genetically modified (GM) crops, and European Union (EU) prohibition of contamination of food with GM ingredients.

Based on a survey of leading companies supplying food and drink to European consumers, the group claimed that the majority are already "turning their back" on genetically modified (GMO) ingredients and derivatives.

Friends of the Earth contacted 21 of the world's top food and drink companies and asked them for their policy on GMO ingredients and derivatives in the food they sold in Europe.

Sixteen said that they source ingredients from GMO-free crops. Most indicated that their derivatives were - or would shortly be - from GMO-free crops as well.

Unilever, said it is moving to a new system in Europe where "hardly any GMO ingredients will be used."

Nestle, the biggest food manufacturer in Europe, said it supplies food made from GMO-free crops as far as practically possible, where the public demanded it - but was unable to list in which countries this policy operates.

Companies that said that they currently source all their ingredients from GMO-free crops for the food and drink they sell in Europe, include Pepsi Cola, Coca Cola, Heinz, Mars, Danone, Kellogs, Campbell Foods, Cadbury Schweppes and Kraft, Jacobs, Suchard. Almost all of these indicated that they also source GMO-free derivatives.

Europe's top fast food chain McDonald's Europe "have asked suppliers to source non-GM ingredients, additives and processing aids."

Three companies did not reply to the survey: ConAgra, Sara Lee Corporation and RJR Nabisco.

In a related development, both FoEE and Greenpeace have called on European Union member states to reject three GM crops proposed for EU-wide commercialization by the European Commission. Member state experts will consider the applications for two oilseed rape varieties and a fodder beet today and Thursday.

Unless there is a qualified majority in favor - unlikely following the quasi-moratorium imposed on new approvals last summer - the decision will be passed to environment ministers later this month.

AMP Section Name:Food and Agriculture
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