Many people are already eating
GM foods without realising

The regulations, which need the final approval of European Union member governments, will require the food industry to segregate GM from conventional crops and put strict limits on the accidental mixing of GM into traditional food imports.

    

Washington, along with other GM exporters Argentina and Canada, has contested the EU’s discouragement of GM food production at the World Trade Organisation.

 

The EU has had a five-year unofficial ban on new GM varieties and the issue is a major source of transatlantic trade friction.

 

The union refuses to approve any new GM crops for cultivation or use in food in the 15-country bloc since 1998 when European consumer fears about food safety were at their height following the mad-cow disease scandal.

   

High cost decision

 

US farmers alone say the EU policy costs them $300 million a year in lost exports, mostly maize.

   

A group of GM-sceptical countries, led by France said the moratorium would remain until the EU had put in place a raft of new rules on safety testing, labelling and tracing GM organisms "from farm to fork" were in place.

   

The new rules allow no more than 0.9 percent accidental mixing of GM in non-GM shipments to the EU. They also let EU states impose "appropriate measures" to ensure GM crops planted in the bloc do not cross-pollinate with conventional strains.

   

The laws could be the final piece in a regulatory jigsaw which will lead those states to reopen the stalled authorisation procedure, but anti-GM campaigners say even more is needed.

   

Environmental groups like Friends of the Earth fear that crops genetically altered to fend off pests could cross-breed with wild relatives and create super-weeds that cannot be controlled.

   

They want binding EU-wide rules on GM farming methods to ensure there is no cross-pollination and a legal regime that would make farmers or biotech seed makers financially liable for any future damage they cause to nature.