Greenpeace volunteers dine out to show that while China has introduced GE food labelling, Hong Kong is stalling.
China now joins the 15 countries of the European Union,
Australia, Japan, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, and many other
countries in requiring compulsory labelling of GE food. The
addition of China means that now over two billion people worldwide
(30% of the population) are covered by GE labelling confirming the
trend that compulsory labelling of GE food is becoming the standard
Greenpeace spokesperson Lindsay Keenan said today, "The Chinese
regulation means that all food ingredients containing or derived
from GE crops will require to be labelled. This is in line with the
process based labelling regulations currently being discussed in
Europe and will certainly strengthen the position of EU regulators
against US threats of WTO action regarding the new EU proposals
Regionally, governments including Thailand, Philippines,
Malaysia and Indonesia, have already been actively discussing GE
labelling and the Chinese model now provides them with an extra
incentive to move more quickly since food importers and exporters
in these countries will anyway have to meet these rules when
trading in China. This is also a wake-up call for the
administration in Hong Kong (2) where thus far local political
games have stalled GE food labelling despite consumer and food
Internationally, governments such as the US and Canada, where
the majority of GE crops in the world are grown, now find
themselves ever more embarrassed and isolated both with the public
at home and in the international political arena because their
current policies of opposing even the most basic regulation of GE
food (i.e. labelling), is once again shown to be out of touch.
Implementation of the regulation forms part of a broader policy
of "Biosafety regulation of GMOs in Agriculture" originally
announced by China in June 2001. According to that regulation, any
releases of GMOs to the environment must be approved by relevant
authorities and safety certification provided for imports. The
regulation outlines the mandatory labelling of all GMOs, including
seeds, animal feed and food products containing GMOs. Unless GMOs
are labelled, their sale will be illegal.
Implementation this March of the requirement for safety
certification of GE imports to China resulted in an estimated $180
million dollars worth of US and Argentinean soya exports to China
being stopped. Shipments containing GE soya are reported to have
only started again since May (3). It is not clear at this point
whether or not they will again be stopped in the short term by
requirements within these new regulations. However once GE food
must be labelled the longer term trend can certainly be predicted
to be a greater demand for guaranteed non-GE ingredients, e.g.
soya, corn and canola.
Greenpeace spokesperson continued, "Labelling of GE foods is
fast becoming the de-facto international standard. It is incredible
that Canada and the US still allow vested interests to stall the
introduction of GE labelling. Consumer surveys in these countries
regularly show clear demand for at least the basic right to know if
ingredients from GE crops are used in their food (4), with many
people opposed to the use of GE crops whether labelled or not".
Notes: (1) US trade representative Robert Zoellick told the House of Representatives that the EU stance was "totally unacceptable... I'm strongly considering bringing a WTO action." Reported in The Grocer (UK), February 16th 2002 - `US moots GM action`. (2) 1st July is the 5th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to China(3) May 2, 2002, Reuters, Randy Fabi - `China buys first US soybeans under new GMO rules`(4) In March 2001, Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology found that 75% of Americans believe it is important to know if food is made with genetically engineered (GE) ingredients. 58% say they oppose the introduction of GM foods. In June 2001, ABC News.com found that 93% of people in the US wanted GE food to be labelled.