Food companies go GE-Free in China

GE rejection gathers pace in world's largest food market

Feature story - 18 July, 2003
In China, the world's largest food market, 32 food companies, producing 53 brands have agreed not to sell genetically engineered (GE) food. Although non-GE policy is already standard in many countries worldwide, this is the first time food producers have publicly committed to such a policy in China.

Chinese consumers turn their backs on GE food. Greenpeace Food Safety Roadshow visit to Huaying green community in Guangzhou.

Given a choice, consumers around the world do not want GE food.

Food companies in China are joining the ranks of a growing number of non-GE companies worldwide. This is another blow to the GE industry, which is already troubled by increasing market rejection and is desperate to find new markets to dump its unwanted products.

Some well known brand names appear amongst the 32 food producers promising not to use GE ingredients in products sold in China including Lipton, Wrigley, Wyeth and Mead Johnson. These companies have already been selling non-GE food in other countries.

Greenpeace campaigner Sze Pang-cheung said "Transnational food companies are learning the lesson. There is a heavy price to pay for applying double standards to Chinese consumers."

When we revealed Nestle´s ruthless overseas practice of selling GE food, including baby food, in China and other Asian countries, the Swiss-based company´s "double standards" met with angry reactions from Chinese consumers who returned products to Nestle.
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Non-GE is unmistakably the growing trend in China. The majority of consumers do not want GE foods, and the Chinese government is taking consumer's rights to choose seriously.

We released China's first comprehensive survey of consumer attitude to GE food in January this year. The survey showed that a clear majority would choose GE-free food over GE food and many would be willing to pay more for it. An overwhelming majority of 87 percent wanted GE food products to be labelled. More

In July last year, the Chinese government introduced compulsory labelling of GE food. More

Recently it has stepped up measures to enforce the labelling legislation by conducting a nationwide inspection. Agriculture officials emphasised that producers selling unlabelled GE products would be penalised.

"The choice for food producers is either to label their GE products and face consumer rejection, or to risk violating the regulation by covering up the true nature of their products," added Sze. "Companies simply have to make the right decision for consumers, the environment and their business interests."

We urge more companies to follow suit to address consumers' growing concerns about GE food.

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