Politics / Law

Europe’s Novel Food Regulation – debate moves into next round

14.07.2009

Luxembourg – EU agriculture ministers have adopted the European Commission’s update of the Novel Food Regulation from 1997. At the end of June, the council confirmed the proposal, which covers foods derived from animal clones and their offspring, as well as foods that have been processed with the help of nanotechnology.
The decision means that such foods can now be brought to the EU market. Members of the European Parliamant (MEPs) who had proposed banning sales of both kinds of foods criticised the vote (see EuroBiotechNews 5-6/2009). Although European food watchdog EFSA has stated that there are no health-related differences between cloned and conventionally produced foods, the European Group on Ethics (EGE) says there are ethical concerns. According to a statement released by EFSA in May, there are currently no valid methods in place to assess the safety of nano­tech-derived foods. The critical MEPs had called for a halt to market authorisations, and recommended pulling approved products from the market until such methods have been established.
Currently, food companies say they see no market for meat, milk or eggs from cloned animals, but there is huge interest in developing nanoengineered package materials that prolong food shelf-life.
The EU ministers said that following an EFSA safety assessment, both kinds of products will be authorised centrally. Up to now, there have been no rules in place to approve them for markets.
The EU council decision – which still has to be put to the European parliament – swiftly raised hackles among Green groups, and is threatening to renew public fears over “Frankenfoods”. While cloned animal products are not currently authorised in Europe, the parliament’s Green bloc called the ministers’ decision “a potential stepping stone towards legislation to authorise such products.”

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