GE ingredients unanimously found in 7 tofu samples Different labels on identical products, voluntary labelling proves a Complete Failure

Press release - 2008-02-17
Greenpeace today exposed the latest GE food testing results. It reveals GE ingredients are unanimously found in all 7 tofu samples from local supermarkets (See Table 1). Greenpeace investigated over 800 pre-packaged food items and found none of them labelled as recommended by the HKSAR Government’s Voluntary Labelling System for GE Foods. Implemented since 2006, the voluntary labelling system proves to be a complete failure as manufacturers and distributors are not obligated to provide the GE information. Greenpeace urges the HKSAR government to expeditiously release the review on the voluntary labelling system for GE foods, and to guarantee food safety and safeguard the consumer rights by establishing a well defined and restrictive mandatory labelling system for GE foods.

In the same investigation, it is found that one sample, Chung Hua Tofu, a Taiwan imported from PARKnSHOP, does not indicate it contains GE ingredients on its package label. The same product selling at city’super, however, indicates its GE ingredients on the original Taiwan package label as it adheres with Taiwan legislation. The discrepancy raises concerns of identical product being labelled differently.

“Food suppliers gain precisely over the voluntary nature of the labelling system as the absence of any restrictive legislation monitoring GE foods gives them a free hand labelling identical products differently on purpose. This indicates the consumer rights in Hong Kong have been greatly ignored.” Food Safety Campaigner of Greenpeace Chow Yuen Ping commented.

The voluntary labelling system for GE foods was implemented in Hong Kong since July 2006 with its year run ending last year. The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department has been conducting a review of the system for over 7 months. The report on the review is withheld from the public. FEHD seems keen on withholding it further as the results could lean towards a failed system. In July 2007, Greenpeace also conducted an investigation into pre-packaged food labelling, GM food testing, as well as an overview of international practices of GM food monitoring (For details, please refer to the Greenpeace’s Review on the Effectiveness of the One-year Implementation of Voluntary Labelling System for GE Foods).

Greenpeace has examined 894 food packages available on the market and found none of them labelled as GE food. 25 samples are, on the contrary, found with negative labelling, a practice discouraged by the government. These figures also indicate that the voluntary labelling system is a fiasco. Consumers are confused as manufacturers using GE ingredients are reluctant to disclose the related information, whereas those that do not are largely relying on negative labelling.

Greenpeace, on the other hand, has conducted a specific examination of GE ingredients in high risk soy products. The results showed all 7 tofu samples bought from supermarkets contained GE ingredients; whereas 4 soy bean milk samples contained no GE ingredients. Among the soy bean milk samples, 2 of them had negative labelling indicating its non-use of GE raw materials.

Currently there are already 54 countries adopting mandatory labelling systems for GE foods, these include nearby Asian countries and regions such as China, Taiwan, Japan, Thailand and the Philippines. Since 1999, Greenpeace has been urging the HRSAR Government to adopt a mandatory labelling system, and to take an active role in monitoring GE foods issues. In a marked contrast with the international communities, the HKSAR Government bodies are still hesitant in implementing such policies. GE foods are imported and sold without restriction in Hong Kong, at the great expense of consumers’ interest. Consumers in Hong Kong have been making robust demand for a mandatory labelling system. The policy making of the HKSAR Government seems lagging far behind general consensus, and backward in relation to international development. By making all sorts of excuses, the government has been avoiding its responsibility to monitor GE foods.

“It is obvious to all that the voluntary labelling system has never worked. FEHD has been reviewing the system since July last year and it refuses to publish the results. Greenpeace strongly urges the FEHD to make the review available to the public, and to implement a mandatory labelling system as soon as possible - so that the rights to choose should remain to the consumers.” Chow remarked.

Table 1: Test results for GE foods in high risk

Sample

Source

Labelling

Results1

Remarks

35S

NOS

Chung Hua Tofu

city’super

Contain GE Ingredients (in Chinese)

+

+

Contain Roundup Ready2

Chung Hua Tofu (Hotpot)

city’super

Contain GE Ingredients (in Chinese)

+

+

Contain Roundup Ready

Chung Hua Tofu

PARKnSHOP

+

+

Contain Roundup Ready

Chung Hua Tofu (Plain)

PARKnSHOP

+

+

Contain Roundup Ready

Pak Fook Beancurd Dessert

PARKnSHOP

+

+

Contain Roundup Ready

Best Buy (Silken Tofu)

PARKnSHOP

+

+

Contain Roundup Ready

First Choice (Steamed Tofu)

Wellcome

+

+

Contain Roundup Ready

Pak Fook Fresh Soy Milk

Wellcome

-

-

SoyaGold Fresh Soy Milk

PARKnSHOP

No GMO Ingredients

-

-

Calci-Plus Fresh Soya Fibre(Black Sesame Flavoured)

Wellcome

-

-

Soya Beverage (Sweetened)

Wellcome

Made with Non-Genetically Modified Soyabean

-

-



1. “35S Promoter” and “NOS Terminator” are inserted during the process of genetic engineering. A positive test result indicates that the tested sample contains GE ingredients.

2. “Roundup Ready” is a kind of GE soyabean which contains a herbicide resistant (specifically, resistance to Glyphosatein) gene from a bacteria found in soil. The type is currently the world’s most widely cultivated GE soybean. Scientists have found unknown genes in these GE soybeans and reported risks regarding food safety - as these unknown genes may cause a change in the plant’s protein structure in varied environmental condition factors such as heat or dryness.

VVPR info:

For PC photo, please contact:

Christine Fong, Communications Officer, Greenpeace China
Tel: 2854-8327 Email:

Notes:

Chow Yuen Ping, Campaigner, Food Safety, Greenpeace China
Tel: 2854-8399 Email:

Christine Fong, Communications Officer, Greenpeace China
Tel: 2854-8327 Email:

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