(July 16) This column is about labels. There. Done. In five words, you know what I’m writing about.

If telling consumers about a product were as easy as that, food marketers would live a dream. But there’s much more to it than that, as some happenings in the world illustrate.

In the event a biotech onion is to be sold in the European Union, it must be labeled as such, according to an early July vote by that body’s parliament to drop its five-year ban on genetically modified foods.

And the labeling standards, which still must be ratified by member nations, will be strict, according to The Associated Press. Anything containing more than 0.9% GM materials must state: “This product is produced from GMOs.”

For produce marketers, that’s a moot point. Either the fruit or vegetable is biotech or it isn’t. The label is the sticking point.

Biotech proponents already say the EU rule is impractical, burdensome and expensive. But an AP quote by Val Giddings of the Biotechnology Industry Organization shows the industry’s real fear: “Rather than facilitating consumer choice, it’s more likely to drive food producers to avoid using genetically modified ingredients.”

Well, pardon the consumer for being able to know what they’re buying, but it seems that’s the whole point of a label.

Such a move to label GMOs would be fought swiftly if brought to a vote in the U.S.

Indeed, it already has. Two proposed labeling laws failed in 2000 and Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, recently introduced another. If it advances, expect a stiff fight, judging by the $5 million spent by the biotech and grocery industries to defeat an Oregon vote to require labeling.

Biotech and grocery groups support voluntary labeling, as does the Food and Drug Administration. Though estimates range as high as 70% for the amount of processed food sold in the U.S. containing GMOs, look for a product stating its biotech heritage. You probably won’t find one. For food marketers wary of informed consum-ers, the FDA’s setup is a dream come true.

Me? I’ve tried biotech papaya from Ha-wai-yah, and it tasted good. So did various irradiated tropicals. I’d still like to know if that’s what I’m eating, though.