The vote, which must be ratified by the European Union member governments, would require than any foods containing more than 0.9 percent genetically modified material in products adopted in the EU must be clearly labeled. The GMO content for non-approved products would be limited to 0.5 percent.

U.S. government officials and farm groups immediately criticized the decision as being unworkable.

“We continue to oppose mandatory traceability labeling as we have all along,” said a USDA spokesman. “We think there are significant problems with the regime the Europeans are about to put in place.”

“The new legislation passed by the European Parliament will only further hinder agricultural trade between the United States and Europe,” said Fred Yoder, president of the National Corn Growers Association.

“The vote today does not give us confidence that the European Union is serious about trade nor that the de facto moratorium on biotechnology will be lifted anytime soon,” he said.

The legislation, which was first introduced in 2001, is the result of demands by EU member states whose leaders are fearful or biotechnology advances, said Yoder, a corn producer.

“We were aware that tolerance levels were being discussed and are satisfied that these are better than the levels we were hearing,” he noted. “We consider this a step forward toward the possibility of getting the illegal moratorium lifted.”

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