There has been a de facto European Union moratorium on the approval of GMO
products since October 1998. Eighteen products have already been approved
under the general EU Directive (90/220/CEE) whilst 14 are pending approval.
Five Member States have temporarily banned already approved GM products,
which is permitted under the Directive. Two new EU labelling regulations have
been drafted but have not been implemented because of a lack of testing
methodologies, certifying labels and inspection procedures. The ultimate
intention is to ensure that products can be labelled GM free to enable consumers
to make an informed choice. It has been argued that products labelled as
containing products derived from GM will convey negative messages to
consumers. This is likely to be so in the absence of benefits that are clearly seen
by consumers. This will occur if plants are used as factories for the production of
vaccines and pharmaceutical products. However, it is unclear at present where
the benefits will lie in the nutritional field other than for the developing world.
The lack of public confidence in the European food safety system is already
causing harm to markets in the US and in developing nations where the
technology is already embraced. This is likely to lead to major problems in
international trade unless it is resolved.