Proposals to recommence the tracing and labelling approval process for GM crops are due to be approved by the European Commission on Wednesday.
The EC will stress, however, that much attention will have to be paid to reassuring consumers over food safety, a move welcomed by consumer groups as essential if faith in GM foods is to be restored.
No GM crops have been approved in Europe since April 1998, and since then a number of food safety scares including BSE and dioxin levels have rocked consumer confidence. The Commission hopes to resolve the deadlock before its August break, and is expected to propose a centralised scientific evaluation of GM crops and tightened labelling requirements for GM plants and foods derived from them. This is stricter than previous labelling regulations, which only state that foods must be labelled GM if material or DNA is detected in the product.
It is also expected to advocate a system to trace GM-based ingredients through the food chain and a strict upper limit will also be set to regulate the potential scope for accidental GM contamination in a batch of traditional crops.
Across the pond however, the proposals are threatening to sour US trade relations. Difficulties are already apparent in US commodity shipments to the EU because many GM varieties permitted in the US are banned in the EU. Tightened laws will only force exporters into trade-unfriendly payouts for expensive testing.