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UN begins four-year study on genetically modified (GM) foods

On March 14, the Codex Alimentarius Commission Task Force on Foods Derived from Biotechnology began hearings in Japan to develop global standards related to the safety and trade of GM foods. Codex is sponsored by the UN World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and has been authorized by the World Trade Organization (WTO) to develop international food standards. The commission will include government, industry, and consumer representatives from around the world. Consumer groups say they will question the reliability of the prevailing GMO approval system which is based on the concept of "substantial equivalence" - the idea that if a GM food is characterized as substantially equivalent to its natural counterpart, it can be assumed to pose no new health risks. Critics believe that this concept has been used as a pretext for not requiring toxicological and immunological tests on GM foods. The Codex meeting follows the first international conference on GM food safety, sponsored by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the group that originally introduced the concept of "substantial equivalence."

Reuters, March 2, 2000 and Ottawa Bureau Press Release, March 23, 2000.

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