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End the Deadlock - Now! CI sends strong delegation to Ottawa to fight for GM labelling

2 May 2006:twelve-strong delegation of CI members is in Ottawa, Canada this week for the 34th Session of the Codex Committee on Food Labelling (CCFL) - an important UN food standards meeting.

They will join around 60 countries and representatives of industry and NGOs who will be debating an international standard for the labelling of food products containining genetically modified organisms (GMOs). 

CCFL has been discussing GM labelling for many years, and although some progress was made at the meeting last year in Malaysia (thanks to the lobbying efforts of CI members), a small number of delegations have consistently stood in the way of greater progress.  No need to look further than the main GMO producing countries and their allies to find those standing in the way of protecting consumer choice: USA, Argentina, Canada, Mexico...

An international guideline on GM labelling would ensure that any nation requiring labelling of GM food cannot be challenged at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Consumers want labelling because GM food is different and introduces changes in composition that never happen through conventional breeding.  GM also introduces new risks - it could, for example, introduce a previously unrecognisable allergen into a food. 

Over the past six weeks CI members from around the world have been actively lobbying their Codex delegates to support the international standard.  Many thanks for your efforts!

The CI delegation, lead by Senior Campaigns Manager, David Cuming, will keep you up to date on the events of the week.
Press Release May 4CI Press Release May 4 Press Release May1CI Press Release May 1   French version  

Read our Daily Reports from Ottawa

Report May 1  Report May 2    Report May 3    Report May 4-5

Read the Statement in the Canadian House of Commons by Penny Priddy, New Democratic Party memeber of Parliament.

If you are a CI member and want to know more about our lobbying efforts for CCFL this year, please go to 'CCFL Committee' under the password protected area of the Codex Section of the CI website.

34th Session of the Committee on Food Labelling to be held in Ottawa, Canada, 1-5 May 2006
11 April 06:
The major issue at CCFL in 2006 is what version of the GM guidelines will be the basis of discussion. A year ago, CCFL was considering adopting a very good guideline on mandatory labelling of GMOs. However, last fall an Electronic Working Group chaired by Canada developed a redrafted guideline that promoted voluntary labelling of GMOs.

CI completely opposed this redraft and due to the lack of consensus on the redraft, CCFL should go back to the old draft in Ottawa this May. This is what Consumers International wants.

Therefore, we urge every CI member to communicate with their Codex Point of Contact by telephone, in person, or by mail to influence their country's position in favour of mandatory labelling.

If you are a CI member and want to know more about our lobbying efforts for CCFL this year, please go to CCFL Committee under the password-protected area of the Codex section of the CI website. Otherwise, please contact Senior Campaigns Manager, David Cuming

CI President Marilena Lazzarini congratulates Brazilian state governor on his support for GMO labelling
This symbol is to appear on products in Brazil which contain GMOs29 March 06:
The opening of COP 8 (8th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity) was held on 20 March in Curitiba, Brazil.  The Governor of Paraná State, Mr. Roberto Requião, gave a powerful speech in which GMOs were highlighted.

Governor Requião took advantage of this international meeting to sign a bill requiring mandatory labelling of all GM foods.  He hopes to spur other states to do the same and to put pressure on the federal government to finally take action on Brazil's mandatory labelling law (which has been in place since 2004 and has not been enforced or lead to any labelling of products).

CI President Marilena has written to Governor Requião to congratulate him on this bold initiative in favour of consumers' right to information and choice.
The symbol above is to appear on products in Brazil which contain GMOs.

Letter to governer Requiao (Português)    English translation  


ACTION ALERT: Global negotiations in Brazil, March 13-30, 2006
1 March 06: Please ask your government to support strong GM labelling and oppose Terminator technology.

European Conference on GMO-free Regions
18 January 06: Consumers International (CI) was a co-sponsor and active participant in the Second European Conference on GMO-free Regions in Berlin on 14-15 January 2006. David Cuming, CI's GM Campaign Manager, and CI members from Bénin, Germany and Japan, joined with 250 activists from 35 countries  -  farmers, scientists, regional administrators, politicians, environmental and other NGO activists - to share experience, knowledge and strategies.

Belarus decrees GM food must be labelled
19 December 05: Labelling of genetically modified (GM) food is now law in Belarus since a goverment issued decree in spring. The decree follows on from tightening of Russian law to require labelling of products with any level of GMO content. The recently translated English version is available as well as the original version in Russian.

Swiss vote for GM crop ban - all consumers have right to choice
6 December 05:
Swiss voters supported a five year ban on the farming of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in a November referendum. The vote is consistent with public opinion surveys which consistently show consumers worldwide are wary of GMOs. Consumers International (CI) and its members have been fighting for all consumers to have the choice to say no to GMOs.

CI supports GMO free regions conference
1 December 05: CI is co-sponsoring the Second European Conference on GMO-free Regions taking place in Berlin from the 14-15 January 2006. Farmers, scientists, regional administrators, politicians, and members of environmental and consumer organisations will meet for two days to share experience, knowledge and strategies for keeping regions GM-free.

Publication on biosafety now available
15 November 05: Biosafety legislation is summarised in a new publication by Consumers International (CI) Africa Office. The publication includes examples of national biosafety legislation, and describes model laws on biosafety and international instruments relevant to biosafety. It also gives a background on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and consumer rights.

'GMOs - what's at stake?' available en français y castellano
Learn about GMO labelling, safety of GMOs and contamination of GM-free crops. Download the leaflet 'Les organismes génétiquement modifiés (OGM) - quels enjeux?' and 'Transgénicos - Qué es lo que está en juego?'

World Food Day, and one year since the beginning of CI GM Campaign
16 October 05: CI launched a global GM campaign a year ago. Since then CI has been campaigning for safety testing of GMOs and for protection of GM-free foods, and it is continuing to campaign for labelling of all GM food.

Food security and biotechnology
Ghana, 15-18 October 05: CI Africa Office held a workshop on 'Food security and biotechnology: The need for an effective regulatory framework' in Accra, Ghana. Participants from 20 African countries included representatives from consumer organisations, scientists, and government bodies. The meeting focused on the need for effective national biosafety legislation.
Read comments made by: CI members from Ghana, Mali, Ethiopia and Benin; also by David Cuming, CI GM Campaign Manager; and Amadou Kanoute, Director of CI Africa Office in a report by 'Black Britain'.

CI conference told 'co-existence' of GM and GM-free crops biologically impossible
At a conference, organised by CI and Regione Emilia-Romagna in Bologna, leading experts maintained that it is biologically impossible for genetically modified (GM) and GM-free crops to co-exist.  International experts gave speeches about the scientific and legal aspects of GMO contamination and GM-free zones, and they called for consumer action. Read conference speeches, exclusive interviews with key speakers, and resource documents.

Appeal to EC and world for caution over GMO contamination
Italy, 9 September 05: CI made an appeal for caution over GMO contamination. David Cuming, CI GM Campaign Manager, said: 'Stop GMO contamination - it can happen quickly and over vast areas and is irreversible. In places, like Italy, where there are a lot of small farms with traditional and organic crops, "co-existence" is probably impossible without removing the freedom of consumers and farmers to choose.'

NEW! GM Leaflet for consumers (pdf)
Learn more about genetic modification (GM) and the issues for consumers in a simple, friendly format. This leaflet 'Genetically modified organisms - what's at stake?' has just been published by the CI GM campaign team. 

Conference: 'Co-existence', contamination and GM-free zones: Jeopardising consumer choice? Bologna, Italy, 9 September, 2005
Is it viable to grow GM crops without contaminating conventional and organic crops?  Is consumer choice being threatened by the current growth of GM crops? How can GM-free zones be legally established, and what purpose do they serve? These are some of the questions that will be examined as part of an international conference organised by Regione Emilia-Romagna and Consumers International (CI) in Bologna, Italy (9 September 2005). Speakers include Ignacio Chapela (USA) and Angelika Hilbeck (Switzerland), Marijane Lisboa (IDEC, Brazil) and Muyunda Ililonga (ZACA, Zambia). This conference is open to the general public.

Consumers International brings anti-GMO message to G8
Amadou Kanoute, Director of CI Regional Office for Africa, spoke at a conference on "Will 'debt relief and increased `foreign aid' Make Poverty History in Africa?" in Scotland and attended the G8 in Gleneagles (7-8 July). Amadou also led the march at the 'Make Poverty History' rally (2 July) with cardinals and Bianca Jagger amongst others. At 'Make Poverty History' CI had a stand and campaigned for trade rules that will benefit Africa, and food security for Africa - not GMOs. CI also asked members of the public their opinion on GMOs.

African consumers need food security - not GMOs
In the lead up to the G8 meeting (6-8 July, 2005) Consumers International (CI) is calling for food security in Africa, not genetically modified (GM) food. Large biotechnology corporations, and some governments, are trying to promote GM crops as miracle solutions to world hunger and malnutrition. However, there is no evidence that GM crops will solve world. See Seeds of life, seeds of failure

Consumers campaign for Chief Biosafety Negotiator's visa
Dr Tewolde Egziabher, Chief Biosafety Negotiator and GM critic, was denied a visa by Canada to attend meetings on the Cartagena Biosafety Protocol in Montreal. Consumers International (CI) pressurised the Canadian government which eventually granted his visa.

Lobbying by CI members leads to new support for GM labelling
Many new countries supported moving forward with an international guideline on labelling of GM food, thanks to CI members and the CI delegation, at the Codex Committee on Food Labelling (CCFL) in Malaysia. 5 countries tried to derail discussions on GM labelling without success. Discussions will move to a working group this year.

About the GM Campaign
The spread of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is a major concern to consumers, and already consumer rights are being undermined. Consumers International (CI) launched the GM campaign in response to the increase in GM food and crops, and because of lack of protection for consumer rights on this issue. It is essential for consumers that all GMOs are labelled, independently safety tested, and that GM-free crops are protected.

Consumers International is working for:

  • labelling of all foods containing, or derived from GMOs
  • independent safety testing of GMOs and implementation of international safety guidelines
  • protection of organic and conventional crops from contamination by GMOs through the establishment of GM-free areas.

What is genetic modification?
Genetic modification (GM) is a major change in food production; Genes are transferred between unrelated species, for example from animals to plants. This technology makes it possible to break species boundaries set up over millions of years, with changes passed on to offspring through heredity. GM food is a major modification of existing conventional plant breeding techniques.

Why is CI concerned about GM?
GM has not been proven safe. The process of genetic modification alters the structure of food and during this process food can produce toxins that could cause allergies. Already some research has shown that certain GM foods can cause allergic reactions in humans. CI believes that countries must adopt into law essential features of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and implement Codex safety guidelines.

Our organic/conventional crops must be preserved. Consumers have a right to a safe and sustainable environment and also a right to choice. Once crops are contaminated by GM varieties they can spread rapidly to other crops and areas - and this is irreversible. Many countries do not grow GM food but, in countries which do, strict rules must be created to allow for the establishment of GM-free areas.

Public opinion surveys conducted in several countries show that consumers are gravely concerned about GMOs, or do not wish to eat GM food. CI believes that consumers have a right to be informed if their food has been genetically engineered. This means that all food containing, or derived from GMOs must be clearly labelled. See fact sheets on 'Why consumers should take action', 'Get your food labelled' and '"Co-existence" or GM-free zones?' in campaign resources.

Other Reasons for Consumer concerns
Biotechnology companies have made many misleading claims. These include claims about solving food security problems, thus diverting attention from many existing solutions that could be employed. Also, claims about benefits of GMOs to farmers and the environment, whilst in fact GM has created many problems. Increasingly a small number of companies are dominating the food chain. See 'Corporate control of the food chain' in campaign resources for more information. Recent cases of untested/unapproved GMOs into the food chain increase concerns about the integrity of companies and individuals involved in genetic modification. It also reveals flaws in regulation systems.

Respect Consumer Rights!

  • Label our foods - we have a right to information!
  • Consumers demand that their food is safe. GMOs must be rigorously tested before being released into the food chain and the environment
  • Consumers need guarantees that GM-free crops remain widely available to consumers.

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