Last ditch efforts to salvage the novel foods regulation were derailed yesterday after the European Parliament and Council failed to reach agreement over the issue of cloned animals – with each side blaming the other for the impasse.
The failure of all-night conciliation talks means the regulation over novel foods will have to be scrapped and the process started again. The current Novel Foods Regulation, adopted in 1997, remains in force, with the consequence that no special measures regarding nanomaterials in food will be put in place.
However, the major consequence from today’s stalemate will see a stifling of innovation in the development of novel foods and ingredients across Europe, said one expert.
Xavier Lavigne, food law manager at EAS consultants, said the failed novel foods regulation would have shortened the authorisation process for novel foods by removing the need for member state approval. Under the proposal, authorisation from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) would have been sufficient.
“Under the current system it can take up to three years for authorisation which does not facilitate innovation,” he told FoodProductionDaily.com.
Lavigne estimated that it could be another three years before a revamped regulation is passed. The food law consultant warned that any new measure would have to exclude the contentious issues of animal cloning and nanotechnology or it “would be doomed to failure”.
Cloned animal controversy
The regulatory deadlock was caused by deep-seated disagreements between MEPs and Council members over potential safety concerns over food from cloned animals.
The Parliament had originally called for a complete ban on food from cloned animals but compromised by demanding mandatory labelling for food derived from the offspring of clones.
For its part, the Council accused MEPs of rejecting a package of eight measures – including three temporary bans on the use of cloned animals in food production. These bans would have come into force immediately and expired once dedicated cloned animal legislation was passed. Other compromise solutions included traceability systems for semen, embryos and offspring of cloned animals, as well as labelling requirements for meat from cloned cattle.
In the wake of the breakdown both the Parliament and Council issued strong statements accusing the other of triggering the legislative breakdown.
"It is deeply frustrating that Council would not listen to public opinion and support urgently needed measures to protect consumer and animal welfare interests,” said Gianni Pittella chair of the parliament‘s delegation and Kartika Liotard, the body’s novel foods rapporteur in a joint statement.
They added: “We were not willing to betray consumers on their right to know whether food comes from animals bred using clones. Since European public opinion is overwhelmingly against cloning for food, a commitment to label all food products from cloned offspring is a bare minimum.”
MEPs also slammed a Council proposal to oppose Parliament's right to veto new additions to the novel foods list.
But the Council was equally scathing of the Parliament’s conduct, saying its members had done everything to reach a “balanced solution”.
“The discussion failed because of European Parliament's inability to compromise on its request for mandatory labelling for food derived from offspring of cloned animals irrespective of the technical feasibility and the practical implications of such mandatory labelling,” said a Council statement.
It added it didn’t want to mislead consumers by agreeing rules that cannot be enforced and any solution must comply with international trade rules.