Novel foods will be better regulated thanks to SP report

2 December 2008

Novel foods will be better regulated thanks to SP report

The SP is winning increasing support in the European Parliament for its view that meat from cloned animals must not be smuggled on to our plates via the back door. "We must not recognise cloned meat as a novel food under the new regulation," said Kartika Liotard following today's vote on her report on the proposed new regulation in the European Parliament Committee on the Environment and Public Health.

Safe to eat? Safe to put on the market?

Kartika Liotard Liotard is 'rapporteur' for the proposal, which means that she is charged with writing a report for the European Parliament. In this case the proposal from the European Commission is for a regulation governing the marketing of foodstuffs which are new, or new to the market. Cloned meat, for a growing majority of MEPs, does not fall within the criteria, but many other foodstuffs must be considered – anything, in fact, not marketed in Europe before a cut-off date of 15th May 1997.

Manipulated foodstuffs

These might include foods which have been produced by means of a new method of rearing or cultivation, products with a novel molecular structure (including those which have been in some way manipulated) or exotic products which are perfectly normal in distant parts of the world, but have hitherto not been known in Europe, such as nuts and fruits from tropical rain forests. To the SP's disappointment, genetically modified organisms and foods made from them, which in Europe means principally maize and soya, are excluded, regarded as being covered by separate measures already agreed.

Ethically responsible

It is uncontroversial that the EU is checking up on whether novel foods are harmless and thus might be freely available on the market. When it comes to meat for consumption, there is also the question of whether it is ethically responsible to raise animals using cloning techniques. But not only cloned meat falls within the category where the need was felt for debate. Following discussion, it is also clear that nanotechnology may be involved in this matter of novel foods, while the proposed rules for allowing traditional foods from third countries on to the European market have also been made more flexible. .

Hi-tech food

"In our hi-tech societies ever more novel foodstuffs are available," said Kartika Liotard. "A well-known example is Becel Proactiv, a product which many people spread on their bread. It looks and tastes like margarine, but you won't see that word on the tub."

Prior to today's vote in the Environment Committee, it remained unclear how much of Liotard's report would be accepted. Any fear that it would be seriously weakened were misplaced however, as it turned out to be a success.

Minus point

"In addition to six important compromise amendments, I also successfully proposed a number of improvements," said Liotard. During voting which lasted almost an hour, more than 250 decisions were taken. "The only minus point in the voting was an eventual decision to offer Novel Foods broad data protection. That's good for big manufacturers, but bad for the consumer."

An improved proposal

"In general the result of the vote has improved a vague, weak proposal from the Commission," Liotard concluded. "I think that we can look forward with optimism to a positive result when the whole parliament votes on this in Strasbourg next year."

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