Government and Institutions

IEA Author Calls for EU Action on GM Food


Press Release

The latest edition of the iea's journal, Economic Affairs, contains proposals by a number of tax experts for a simplification of the UK tax system and a reduction in the tax burden.

IEA author Roger Bate argues that the EUâ s position on GM food is misleading.
IEA author Roger Bate argues that the EU’s position on GM food is misleading, internally inconsistent and has delayed the uptake of technologies that could save the lives of many in the developing world. The European Commission cannot even decide what constitutes GM food but has not dropped proposals for mandatory labelling. The argument for labelling is that GM food might constitute a health risk so people should have the opportunity not to eat it: yet there is no evidence that GM food is, indeed, a health risk.

The practical implications of labelling would be huge. It is virtually impossible to determine definitively that some foods are GM-free. Because other countries take a more pragmatic approach than the EU, trade would be severely inhibited by such a scheme of mandatory labelling.

Even the EU cannot decide what should be labelled. One of the more bizarre exemptions proposed is that for products such as enzymes, vitamins and amino acids used in the production of European cheese and beer. Roger Bate explains, Given the alleged aims of the proposal this omission is scientifically illogical since the food would be contaminated with GM technology. But it becomes more understandable when one realises that powerful French and German producers use this technology. Since these EU companies don’t want the curse of a GM label on their produce, this type of GM technology is omitted from the labelling proposals.

Mandatory GM food labelling is illogical and, if implemented, would lead to the absurd inconsistencies cited above. Because of those inconsistencies workable proposals cannot be found but the objective of mandatory labeling is not dropped. The dithering prevents workable policy alternatives being implemented. EU consumers do deserve choice. There is a simple alternative. If the Commission can simply agree what constitutes GM food and what does not, then those manufacturers who wish to label their food as GM-free can do so. No doubt they would do so if the Commission were right and consumers really did value food that is GM-free.

Read the full report here.

* The European Union’s Confused Position on GM Food, Roger Bate, Economic Affairs, Volume 23. No 1 March 2003. Available to buy from