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Food Quality: Greens Beg To Differ

  • February 6th, 2007
  • Posted by 7thmin

greenpeace-protest-cropped.jpgAs the European Commission convened a conference promoting virtues of top food quality (5.2.07), Greenpeace picketed its headquarters declaring protection standards were still not complete.

Selling on a “clean and green” ticket

Europe has been wanting a place in the “clean and green” agenda; an approach that helps to sell produce at good prices, and appeals to the continent’s famously careful eaters.

“Being particular about our food is central to our way of life”, said the European Agriculture Commissioner, Mariann Fischer Boel, addressing the gathering in Brussels.

“Alongside commodity production, many of our producers will compete best in the high-added-value, high-quality markets…

“We can do this because we have a food tradition that is the envy of the world …

“The balance of our farm exports already tilts firmly towards items with a high added value – meats for example- rather than base commodities.

“From 10999 to 2004, such items made up more than two-thirds of the exports of the European Union …”

Quality definitions included organoleptic characteristics (effects on senses, taste); nutritional and health-giving attributes; production methods, e.g. “integrated production”; use of particular ingredients; origin, and “relationship to the physical environment”.

Money was available from the EC to help with development of new products, processes and technologies; policy was supporting more “environmentally friendly” production.

Certification and labeling of foodstuffs is seen as crucial to selling on the basis of food quality, and the conference agenda included a review of certification and labeling schemes: an examination of the economics of such schemes, rules, impacts on trade with outside countries, and practical details on the difficulties and opportunities of operating schemes.

Commissioner Fischer Boel declared support for a “light touch” regulatory approach – a key point of departure from what critics are demanding.

One million dissenting voices

The Greenpeace environmentalist lobby was wanting a “heavier touch”, delivering one-million signatures by citizens of the European Union, touchily demanding an approach to food labeling that would touch on more factors – specifically genetically modified ingredients.

They want labeling of animal products like milk, eggs and meat., to show whether or not the animals had been on GM feed.

Labeling rules imposed in 2004 require that food and animal feed containing GMOs (genetically modified organisms) must be labeled to show it, but the Greenpeace campaigners argue that leaves a “massive labeling loophole”.

“Milk, eggs, meat and other animal derived foodstuffs do not need to be labeled if the animals have been fed with GMOs (genetically modified organisms).

“Over 90% of GM crops imported into the EU are soya and maize destined for animal feed; this amounts to 20-million tones of GMOs entering the European food chain each year without consumers being told,” said Katherine Mill, from Greenpeace Europe.

Non -governmental agencies, and several Members of the European Parliament had demanded labeling of indirect GMO content at the time that the regulations were being legislated – against resistance form within the European Commission.

A compromise outcome was accepted, for the time being.

This week a Commission spokesperson said that a petition by one million citizens was a serious matter and the demands it contained had to be carefully considered.

The regulations as they stood made it possible to trace the presence of GMOs throughout the food chain and were strict.

They had been made through an open and thorough process within the European institutions, and another major change could not be expected to happen quickly.

Picture: Petitions at European Commission: Greenpeace