On 25th January, the German Bundestag gave the go ahead for the new version of the German Genetic Engineering Law. The new version incorporates the introduction of the “Not genetically engineered” label as well as stricter regulations on the cultivation of genetically modified plants. In future, consumers will be able to more easily differentiate non-genetically engineered food from genetically modified food. However, the law only comes into effect once it has been ratified by the German Bundesrat. This decision will be made in the middle of February.
Until 2004, genetically modified foods were governed by the Novel Food Regulation, according to which novel foods and food additives were only able to enter the European market after having gone through a European approval procedure. When “gene food” was taken out of this regulation and included in a separate EU regulation, the debate about novel food was hardly noticed by the wider public. Nowadays, supermarket shelves contain margarine with phytosterols that are held to lower the cholesterol level. Now the novel foods market has a higher profile, and both the food industry and the World Trade Organisation are calling for simpler approval procedures. On the 14th January 2008, the European Commission put forward a proposal to change the regulation on novel foods in order to improve access to new and innovative foods on the EU market at the same time as maintaining a high level of consumer protection. The draft of this regulation foresees simpler and more efficient approval procedures for novel foods, which will make it possible to launch safe and innovative foods more rapidly on the EU market. An example of this is Stevia, which will also be regulated by the new novel food regulation. Stevia rebaudiana produces stevioside, a natural, almost zero-calorie substance that is two to three hundred times sweeter than sugar. The approval of Stevia was rejected in 1999 because of health concerns. With easier approval procedures, this situation might now change.
Source: German Bundestag, EU Commission, aid infodienst