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French GMO labelling bill for meat and dairy products approved

Labels would have to stipulate if animals have been fed GMOs

France’s National Assembly has approved a draft bill on agriculture that includes a requirement to start labelling meat and dairy products from animals that have been fed genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

An amendment introducing a GMO labelling requirement for these products was adopted during the first reading of the bill despite the reservations of government ministers.

As well as showing if animals had been fed GMOs, the approved amendment would require new ‘method of production’ labelling on meat and dairy products.

If approved by the French Senate, the changes would come into force on January 1, 2023.

Consumer choice

The deputies who put forward the measure said the additional information would make it easier for consumers to make informed choices, adding that the delayed launch date would give the industry time to adapt.

They said current rules mean meat and dairy products do not have to show if animals have been fed with materials such as GM soyabeans – as is the case with three quarters of French livestock.

In a debate ahead of the vote, Agriculture Minister Stéphane Travert warned that the measure could undermine work already done to improve origin labelling in France. He noted that the EU is currently allowing France to enforce mandatory labelling of meat and dairy ingredients in processed foods on a trial basis, with a review due later this year. But he suggested this work could be undone if France adopts amendments, which would be “ineffective in the EU single market”.

“It is impossible to put in place measures that would be considered discriminatory against other countries, and contrary to both EU and the World Trade Organization regulations,” he stated.

Other measures

As well as new labelling requirements for meat and dairy products, the draft Agriculture bill covers a wide range of issues, aimed at “balancing commercial relations in the agri-food sector and ensuring healthy, sustainable and accessible food for all”.

It empowers the government to curb promotional offers in a bid to tackle aggressive price competition between retailers. It also requires a percentage of food products sold in canteens to either be organic or meet other specific quality criteria. The draft bill also includes measures to tackle food waste and to introduce mandatory CCTV monitoring in slaughterhouses.

Many civil society groups are unimpressed however – releasing a joint statement saying the bill does too little to address environmental and health issues and to tackle the problems faced by farmers.

Unless the government and lawmakers “give the law some teeth”, the organisations - which include consumer body UFC-Que Choisir - say they will “disassociate themselves with the legislation”.

The draft bill has now been sent for consideration by the French Senate.

 

A version of this article first appeared on IEG Policy’s sister website IEG Vu. For further information on IEG Vu, or to request a free trial, contact the Customer Support team.

 

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