New EU rules on the labelling and traceability of genetically modified foods came into force at the weekend.

Under the new regulations, all food and feed containing more than 0.9% genetically modified material will have to be labelled as such. All food, including soy or maize oil produced from GM soy and maize, and food ingredients, such as biscuits with maize oil produced from GM maize, must be labelled. The label has to indicate that the product contains genetically modified organisms or is produced from genetically modified organisms.

Under the traceability rules, business operators are required to transmit and retain information about products that contain or are produced from GMOs at each stage of the placing on the market.

When they were announced, the rules were seen as a step towards a lifting of the EU’s unofficial ban on GM foods. Several countries in the EU had said they would keep the moratorium in place until new legislation regarding labelling and traceability was introduced.

The US has filed a complaint at the World Trade Organisation about the EU’s moratorium on GMOs, but despite the rules being a step towards increased trade in GMOs, the rules have received criticism in the US.

“These new requirements establish a serious trade barrier that will keep many US food products out of the European market,” said John Cady, CEO of the US National Food Processors Association (NFPA).

“European consumers will see such labels on food products as ‘warning labels.’ However, there is no safety or nutrition issue associated with the products of agricultural biotechnology on the market, and there is no scientific basis for requiring the labelling of biotech foods,” he added.

In the EU, the rules have been welcomed by environmental lobby groups and consumer groups, who say consumers should be able to choose whether they consume GM foods or not.