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6-Regulation: Taiwan may give 5-yr grace period on GMO labelling

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TITLE:  Taiwan may give 5-yr grace period on GMO labelling
SOURCE: Reuters, by Angus Chuang
DATE:   November 7, 2000

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Taiwan may give 5-yr grace period on GMO labelling

TAIPEI - Taiwan's health department said yesterday it may give food 
manufacturers a grace period of up to five years before requiring all 
products made from genetically modified organisms (GMO) to be labelled. 
Chen Lu-hung, deputy director of the health department's Bureau of Food 
Sanitation, said it was considering adopting voluntary labelling for three 
to five years as the industries had requested a delay to a thorough 
labelling on GMO products. Yesterday, the bureau convened a meeting of 
agricultural and health department officials, professors and industry 
executives to discuss labelling issues concerning the gene-altered foods.

"The industry representatives in the meeting proposed a postponement to 
complete labelling on GMO foods in 2001. They said it was too soon to be 
prepared," Chen told Reuters. "They proposed such a grace period, but we 
have not decided how long it should be. But we will impose compulsory 
labelling after the period," he said.

GMO crops contain genes from another organism to provide attributes, such 
as resistance to herbicides or the ability to produce their own toxins to 
kill pests. Proponents of GMO crops say the new technology contributes to 
better yields and lower production costs.

The health authority had initially planned to complete detailed guidelines 
for labelling GMO foods and draft regulations that would require GMO farm 
products to meet government safety standards by the end of 2000. But the 
food industry had called for a grace period as relevant safety standards 
and the testing technology were still far from complete. "It took Japan 
seven years before it decided to put the labelling into effect. It's way 
too soon for Taiwan to require labelling on all GM products next year," 
said Sunny Chen, secretary-general of tghe Taiwan Confectionery, Biscuit 
and Floury Food Association.

"As the testing technology and standards are yet to be seen now in 
November, how can we require labelling on all products in two months?" Chen 
asked. Chen of the food health bureau said the government would not make a 
final decision whether to grant the grace period before it collected enough 
information from the industry and relevant agencies.

Industry officials are also lobbying for a looser standard on the amount of 
GMO material in a product to be labelled than the European Union practice, 
which requires labelling on products containing more than one percent of 
GMO ingredients. "They are calling on the government to impose labelling on 
foods with more than five percent of GMO materials, but no consensus was 
reached in the meeting," said an official with the cabinet's Council of 
Agriculture. Consumer sensitivity to issues concerning gene-altered crops 
has been running high in Taiwan after mounting calls from consumers and 
environmental groups for a compulsory labelling, saying the public had the 
right to know.

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