Opinion on Ethical Aspects of the Labelling of Foods Derived from Modern Biotechnology, Group of Advisers to the European Commission on the Ethical Implications of Biotechnology, Opinion No. 5, (May 5, 1995).

Requested by the Commission on 13 October 1994.

Rapporteur: Dr Anne McLaren


Genetic engineering applications in agriculture make it possible inter alia to boost productivity and improve the quality of the different varieties and the taste, texture or ripeness of fruit and vegetables and enhance resistance to disease or poor climatic conditions.

Should these new products be labelled as generated by genetic biology techniques, or should their components merely be listed? The discussion must also address the specific problems connected with cultural or religious sensitivities, particularly in respect of mixed species or the introduction of animal genes in plant species.


' the primary ethical imperative applying to foodstuffs that enter the food chain - whether or not they are derived from biotechnology - relates to their safety, which has to be strictly monitored . Modern biotechnology, as a technique, used in food production, cannot be regarded in itself as ethical or non-ethical . [That being so,] consumers must be provided with information which should be useful, clear, honest, enforceable, i.e. possible to verify . Labelling will be appropriate when modern biotechnology causes a substantial change in composition, nutritional value or the use for which the food is intended.'


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