Thailand commits to labelling of genetically engineered food

Greenpeace praises the move and urges other Asian countries to follow

Press release - April 12, 2001
Greenpeace today welcomed the statement by Secretary General of the Bureau of Food and Drugs declaring that Thailand's government will require labelling of genetically engineered (GE) food at latest by the end of this year. The announcement came after Greenpeace tests on food products demonstrated that the public is routinely and unknowingly exposed to GE contaminated food. Almost 1 in 4 products tested contained GE ingredients. (1)

Greenpeace today welcomed the statement by Secretary General of the Bureau of Food and Drugs declaring that Thailand's government will require labelling of genetically engineered (GE) food at latest by the end of this year. The announcement came after Greenpeace tests on food products demonstrated that the public is routinely and unknowingly exposed to GE contaminated food. Almost 1 in 4 products tested contained GE ingredients. (1)

Secretary General of the Food and Drugs Administration Dr. Vichai Chokeviwat said on UBC Nation Television that the Thai government has a duty to let the public know and confirmed that "There will be labelling of GE foods by at least the end of the year". He later repeated this promise on Kom-Chat-Luak programme on UBC 8.

Greenpeace congratulated Thailand for its determination to protect the public and the environment from genetic pollution. The intention to introduce labelling rules for GE food comes only a week after the Thai governments' decision to ban the release of genetically engineered (GE) crops into the environment and to stop GE field trials was made public. (2)

Thailand is one of the world's leading food exporting countries and regularly exports to countries such as the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia that require strict labelling of GE ingredients in food.

"Greenpeace urges the other Asian governments to follow Thailand's lead. This is the sensible and honest thing to do to protect the interest of consumers and the environment. This move will also benefit Thai exporters as Thai's MAIN EXPORT MARKETS ARE LOOKING FOR NON-GMO PRODUCTS OR REQUIRE GE LABELLING," said Dr Jiragorn Gajaseni, Executive Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

Leading Genetics expert, Prof. Wichai Cherdshewasart who is a member of the Thailand National Board of Biosafety under the Prime Minister's Office also praised the decision:

"Now is our golden opportunity. Most countries are looking for non-GMO produce. We should take advantage of it." Said Prof Wichai "in adopting such a policy, the government must then ensure that existing crops with GM plants, mainly soya bean, will be identified and eventually eradicated."

There are currently 28 countries with labelling legislation in place including Japan, Korea and all 15 countries of the European Union.(3) The experience in Europe where GE labelling is mandatory since 1998 shows that labelling of GE foods have NOT added costs to the consumer. By contrast in the USA where there is no GE labelling recalls of over 300 different food products containing potentially dangerous GMO material has cost the food industry over a billion dollars. The only major food producing countries to resist the idea of labelling GE food are the United States and Canada.

Auaiporn Suthonthanyakorn, Greenpeace GE campaigner in Thailand said "Greenpeace calls on Nestle, Knorr, Nissin, Goodtimes,Pringles Vita-Tofu and Pepsico to also be honest with the public by immediately labelling their GE contaminated products and acting to remove the GE from their food."

Notes: 1) Greenpeace yesterday revealed the following seven products contained GMO ingredients: Nestle baby food (Baby Celerac), Good Time instant cereal beverage, Knorr Cup Soup (Instant cream of corn soup), Nissin Cup Noodles, Lay's Stax (Potato crisp original flavour), Pringles Snack, High class VITA-TOFU soy bean curd. 2) The cabinet of the Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra decided to instruct the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives to halt all approvals for GE field trials. 3) Countries that to Greenpeace's knowledge have labelling legislation written or already in place are all 15 countries of the European Union, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Latvia, Poland, Norway, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Israel and Russia. Mexico, Philippines and Hong Kong have political commitments or legislation awaiting approval for GE labelling whilst Brazil currently forbids the use of GE food altogether.