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3-Food: South Korea plans to segregate GM-imports



-------------------------- GENET-news ---------------------------

TITLE:  South Korea says considers dividing GMO grain imports
SOURCE: Reuters, by Cho Mee-Young
DATE:   December 22, 1999

----------------- archive: http://www.gene.ch/ ------------------


South Korea says considers dividing GMO grain imports

SEOUL - South Korea's Ministry of Agriculture said yesterday it
was considering a plan to separate imports of genetically
modified and non-genetically modified grains in line with
labelling laws to take effect in March 2001. But in a public
hearing held on Monday on proposals to label genetically-modified
organisms (GMO), industry groups called for imports to be
separated as early as the start of next year.

"Physically, that would be impossible," a ministry official said
on Tuesday, emphasising that the ministry would likely begin
separating imports around the time labelling starts. In
preparation, the ministry must assess various ideas which could
include tendering for GMO and non-GMO grains separately or
designating overseas suppliers to plant the grains separately,
the official said.

In 1998, South Korean corn demand for corn amounted to 7.496
million tonnes while demand for soybean totalled some 1.644
million tonnes. Imports accounted for 98.8 percent of corn and
90.5 percent of soybean demand, the ministry said.


STANDARDISATION OF GMO TESTING

Local industry groups at the public hearing expressed concern
about the authenticity of GMO testing. They said the introduction
of labelling should be postponed until verification tests are
proven to be accurate. A dispute erupted last month between South
Korea's major health food producer, Pulmuone Co, and the state
run Korea Consumer Protection Board (KCPB) over GMO testing in
tofu.

Pulmuone filed a lawsuit against KCPB seeking damages of 10.6
billion won ($9.4 million) after KCPB said in early November that
18 brands of tofu, including Pulmuone's, included GMO material. A
Pulmuone official said KCPB tested a GMO-free brand and yet
concluded it contained GMO material. "We have doubts about KCPB's
GMO testing and the standards they are using," the official said.

>From the beginning of next year, Pulmuone will open a
biotechnology joint venture, Korea Gene Analysis Center Co, with
Japanese liquor maker and bio-engineering firm Takara Shuzo Co to
provide analysis of GMO and other gene-related services.


CONSUMERS ASK FOR WIDER GMO-LABELLING

Under the ministry's proposal, the state-run National
Agricultural Product Quality Management Service will be in charge
of assessing for GMO material in corn, soybean and beansprouts.
But domestic consumer groups have called for a wider range of
products to be labelled, including potatoes and cottonseed. They
also told the public hearing that GMO labelling in processed
foods should begin along with that for corn, soybean and
beansprouts in March 2001.

South Korea plans to introduce GMO labelling for processed foods
in July 2001 under a revision of a food sanitation law recently
passed by the National Assembly. The Korea Food & Drug
Administration has been preparing guidelines for the labelling.
Consumer groups also said the standards for assessing produce as
GMO-free - currently five percent or less - should be lowered to
one to three percent. Agriculture Ministry officials said they
would consider the recommendations expressed at the public
hearing and from other sources.


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