Companies in China clear genetically engineered food off their shelves

Non-GE policy becoming strong trend in the word's largest food market

Press release - 18 July, 2003
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Chinese consumers queue for GE-Free produce and information being distributed by Greenpeace at a Guangzhou supermarket.

Thirty-two food producers operating in China today announced they are now officially committed to not selling genetically engineered (GE) food in China. This is the first time food producers have publicly committed to such a policy in China, the largest food market in the world.

The companies now committed to eliminating GE ingredients include internationally known brand names such as Wyeth, Mead Johnson, Wrigley and Lipton, which already have non-GE policy in many other countries. The local companies include large soy sauce producers in the Southern China region, such as Pearl River Bridge, Lee Kum Kee and Amoy, as well as a major soymilk brand, Vitasoy.

The commitment from the 32 companies appears in sharp contrast to the record of Nestle - a multinational caught in selling GE products in China last year and by now famous for its double-standards. The scandal alerted the consumers about the problem of unknown GE in their food and made them return Nestle products back to retailers.

"Some food companies are smart enough to learn from Nestle's bad example," said Greenpeace campaigner Sze Pang-cheung. "Today we welcome the first wave of companies making public commitment in China but the truth is that non-GE trend is here to stay."

The local food companies committing to non-GE benefit greatly from the new government policy introduced in March, which commits to keeping production in the largest soy production provinces in North East China non-GE. China is the world's fourth largest soy producer. The Chinese Government has recently stepped up its efforts to enforce the GE labelling legislation and conducted inspections. Officials have emphasised producers selling unlabelled GE products would be penalised.

"Food businesses in China are joining the ranks of a growing number of companies world-wide by committing to non-GE standards. Chinese consumers are no different from people elsewhere: people want non-GE food. The Chinese Government is taking seriously their right to choose. The choice left for food producers is either to label their products as GE and face consumer rejection, or to risk violating the regulations," said Sze Pang-cheung.

Greenpeace urges more companies to follow suit to address consumers' growing concern on GE food. (2)

VVPR info: For photos, please contact Percy Mak, Media Officer with Greenpeace China (Hong Kong), +(852)-93816304 or +(852)-28548326

Notes: (1) 32 producers (with 53 brands) sent formal statements to Greenpeace confirming they do not to use GE ingredients in their products sold in China. (2) According to a survey conducted by Zhongshan University in December 2002, 87% of the respondents demand labelling of GE products and 56% would choose non-GE food over GE food if given the choice.

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