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BRUSSELS - North American companies and governments are stepping up a campaign asking European Union lawmakers to modify controversial labeling proposals for genetically modified foods, Dow Jones Newswires reports. They say the proposals are unworkable.
The E.U. has said it plans to tighten regulations on all GM foods and animal feed starting next year. The European Parliament says it wants foods or products with more than 0.5 percent of a GM ingredient to be given a warning label, compared with 1 percent at present. European governments say they won't approve any new GM crops until more robust labeling requirements are in force.
Businesses fear their products will frighten consumers if they are forced to label. The regulations threaten exports from the U.S. and Canada, which are the world's two leading exporters of genetically modified crops like corn and soybeans.
Kraft Foods Inc. and other multinationals complain the latest proposals are unworkable. Many genetically modified organisms can't even be detected in finished products, such as highly refined sugars and oils.
"The paper trail this creates is completely nonsensical," said Vanja Markovic, Kraft Foods' director of European affairs. Companies selling in Europe already try to sell products without any GM traces because that's what European consumers demand.
The U.S. sees protectionism behind the E.U. move and is threatening to challenge the E.U.'s labeling requirements at the World Trade Organization.
"The new regulations will only exacerbate these tensions," says Sarah Thorn of the Grocery Manufacturers of America. Thorn's members are "looking at all available options to overturn these regulations - including WTO dispute settlement."
Critics like Canada, which is the world's third-largest agri-food exporter, say Europe's legislators are caving in to public hysteria.