I recently came across a media release by Bill Jeffery, National Coordinator of the Centre for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). Bill has been representing the International Association of Consumer Food Organizations (IACFO) at meetings of the Codex Food Labelling Committee (CCFL), which is a joint Commission of the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Standards established by Codex are recognized as authoritative by the World Trade Organization (WTO) for resolving international trade disputes.
Apparently, the CCFL will begin crafting an international legal standard for mandatory nutrition labelling this summer. It appears that the Committee has embraced global mandatory nutrition labelling on the back of packages - something that might help the WHO with its Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health. It also may be useful for the September 2011 meeting at the UN headquarters where leaders will discuss the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases.
Maybe this summer's work will drive some better mandatory labelling laws and standards in countries with inadequate domestic policies, who nevertheless wish to compete in the global trade market. Labelling alone won't change products, but it may help to increase transparency and provide us with the information we need to make demands for healthier products in our food system. I think this work might be worth keeping an eye on!
The Globe & Mail reported on July 6th that the Codex Food Labelling Committee did indeed vote to allow nations to label genetically-modified (GM) foods, but it will not be mandatory. This is significant, since previously coroprations could argue that labelling GM foods were a barrier to trade and sue for damages through the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The Globe quoted a Health Canada spokesperson who said Canada had no plans to start labelling GM foods as a result of the decision, since the Codex guidelines for GM labelling are voluntary, and the government sees no need to label GM foods.
Lucy Sharratt, co-ordinator of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, called the decision “a huge global victory for consumers around the world, for food sovereignty of nations around the world in the global fight over the future of genetic engineering,” and vowed to pressure the Canadian government to label GM foods.
See full article at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/voluntary-guidelines-to-allow-for-labelling-of-worlds-genetically-modified-foods/article2087743/.