China: Compulsory labelling for all Genetically Engineered foods comes into force July 1.

China joins Europe with process based GE labelling.

Press release - 1 July, 2002

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 international practise.

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 (1)".

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 industry demand.

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 found that 93% of people in the US wanted GE food to be labelled.