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Codex Agrees on GM Food and Precautionary Principle Initiatives.

Officials with the Codex Alimentarius said they made progress at a July 2-7 meeting of the Codex Commission on various issues related to genetically modified foods, and the precautionary principle. The standard was adopted at the biannual meeting of the Codex Commission, the organization's highest decision-making forum. Codex is a 165-member joint body established by the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization and World Health Organization to set international norms for food safety.

Officials adopted a new international standard on the labeling of GM foods that might cause allergies in humans. The two U.N. organizations said in a joint press release dated July 9 that the Codex Commission "agreed in principle that the safety of food derived from genetically modified organisms should be tested and approved by governments prior to entering the market. In particular, GMO foods should be tested for their potential to cause allergic reactions."

But Codex officials admitted that a separate proposal setting out definitions to be used in possible global recommendations for the labeling of GM foods ran into resistance from some countries and that any final decision on labeling would have to wait until the next Codex Commission meeting in 2003 at the earliest.

The Commission agreed to advance work on further proposals setting out principles on the risk analysis of GM foods and guidelines for the conduct of safety assessments of foods derived from recombinant DNA plants. The Commission also agreed to commence new Codex work on the drafting of guidelines on food safety assessment procedures for modified microorganisms. The principles and guidelines have been advanced from step 5 to step 6 of the Codex's eight-step standards approval process.

Codex also called for the elaboration of a "code of practice" on the application of the precautionary principle in risk analysis in what is being viewed as a setback by European countries to enshrine the principle in Codex policies. The Commission agreed that ongoing efforts to draw up working principles for risk analysis should focus on developing principles within Codex as a high priority with the aim of adopting the guidelines by the next Commission meeting in 2003.

The Commission also endorsed a proposal from chairman Tom Billy stating that when evidence that "a risk to human health exists but scientific data are insufficient or incomplete, the Commission should not proceed to elaborate a standard but should consider elaborating a related text, such as a code of practice, provided that such a text would be supported by the available scientific evidence."

The European Union has pushed strongly for the incorporation of the precautionary principle in the work of Codex, the World Trade Organization, and other international organizations dealing with health, environment and trade matters. In essence, the principle would allow governments to impose measures such as import bans if there is a belief that public health or the environment may be under threat, even in the absence of firm scientific evidence proving the danger.
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Title Annotation:Codex Alimentarius
Comment:Codex Agrees on GM Food and Precautionary Principle Initiatives.(Codex Alimentarius)
Publication:Food & Drink Weekly
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:0JINT
Date:Jul 16, 2001
Words:490
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