BIO Applauds Codex’s Caution on Labeling

WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 4, 2001) -Government officials from around the world were in Ottawa this week for the meeting of the Codex Committee on Food Labeling (CCFL), which considered – and tabled – recommendations for special labeling of foods derived from biotechnology.

“The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) fully supports product labeling that is accurate, informative and not misleading, and that communicates scientifically significant information relevant to health, safety and nutrition to consumers,” said Michael J. Phillips, Ph.D., BIO’s Executive Director, Food & Agriculture.

In discussions at CCFL this week, a similar consensus emerged that labeling is needed to provide information important to consumers, such as significant changes in composition or nutritional value, or the presence of potential allergens. That is also the current policy of the United States and Canada.

However, another proposal before the committee this week would have gone much further and as a result would not have adequately distinguished between foods labeled to provide content and safety information and foods labeled solely to indicate they are biotechnology products. Such labeling runs the risk of misleading consumers to believe that one product (non-biotech) is superior to or safer than another (produced using biotechnology).

“BIO supports the committee’s decision to postpone consideration of this non-scientific proposal for at least a year, a decision that sends a clear signal that Codex will not be used as a political tool by those who would stigmatize or ban biotechnology products without justification,” added Phillips.

The Codex Committee on Food Labeling is an intergovernmental committee under the Codex Alimentarious Commission, an international food standards body made up of 164 countries. Codex coordinates the development of international food standards aimed at protecting consumer health and ensuring fair food trade practices.

BIO represents more than 950 biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations in all 50 U.S. states and 33 other nations. BIO members are involved in the research and development of health care, agricultural, industrial and environmental biotechnology products.