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3-Food: Chinese public 'cautious over GM food'



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                                  PART I
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  Chinese public 'cautious over GM food'
SOURCE: SciDevNet, by Jia Hepeng
        http://www.scidev.net/article
s2.asp?id=2301200316482019&t=N&c=1&r=1&hl=
        Chinese%20public%20%27cautious%20over%20GM%20food%27
DATE:   Jan 23, 2003

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


Chinese public 'cautious over GM food' 

Most Chinese urban consumers favour non-genetically modified (GM) food,
and more than 80 per cent think transgenic food products should be
labelled, according to a survey commissioned by Greenpeace.

The results of the survey, released late last week, also indicate that
more than 40 per cent of consumers would choose a non-GM product even if
it cost 10 per cent more than a GM counterpart.

"The survey shows that China's urban consumers are basically the same as
consumers in the developed countries, with the majority favouring non-GE
[genetically engineered] food once they are given the right to choose,''
says Sze Pang Cheung, GM campaigner for Greenpeace China.

The survey, which was carried conducted by Zhongshan University out among
1,000 citizens of the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, was carried out
amid rising consumer concern about GM crops in China. Such concern
escalated after Greenpeace revealed late last year that the company
Nestlé was selling non-labelled GM food in China.

Sze says that the Chinese government has wisely taken a cautious approach
in commercialising GM food crops because it is uncertain whether the
market will accept GM food. "Food producers and supermarkets should also
recognise and act on consumers' demands and eliminate GE ingredients from
their products,'' she says.

Agricultural experts estimate that since 2001, China has imported more
than 20 million tons, of GM food per year, most of which is soybean used
to product edible oil.

Regulation on the safety of GM organisms, which was introduced by the
State Council, China's cabinet in May 2001, stipulates that all products
containing GM ingredients should be labelled after July 2002. China's
Ministry of Health also required in April 2002 that all food must be
labelled after July 2002.

But some have expressed concern that the regulations and rules have been
poorly enforced. So far, few foods containing GM ingredients sold in
China's supermarkets or stores have been labelled.

As a result, most Chinese consumers are unaware that GM products are
currently being sold in China. Greenpeace's survey confirmed this,
indicating that 64 per cent of Guangzhou citizens do not know that GM
food products are already sold in supermarkets.


                                  PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  GE-Free Roadshow Reminds Consumers of their Right to Choose Non-GE
        Food
SOURCE: Greenpeace China, Media Release
        http://www.greenpeace-china.org.hk/eng/gm_news_item.adp?id=407
DATE:   Jan 19, 2003

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GE-Free Roadshow Reminds Consumers of their Right to Choose Non-GE Food

19th January 2003, Guangzhou, CHINA - Shoppers at Guangzhou's Carrefour
supermarket were today given a GE-free welcome to the Chinese Year of the
Goat by volunteers from Greenpeace and Green Hope, a Guangzhou based
environmental organization. This is the final activity of a three-day GE-
Free Roadshow consumer education programme reminding Guangzhou consumers
that they have the right to choose to stay away from GE Food.

The volunteers set out display panels and game stalls in front of the
supermarket. Two volunteers, dressed up in 'natural corn-men' costumes,
distributed GE-Free soy sauce products to consumers and wished them a
Happy New Year of the Goat. The activity attracted much public interest
and shoppers' children delighted in hugging and poking the 'corn-men'.

The finale of the activity came when six volunteers entered the
supermarket to stick Non-GE labels on the organic products sold by
Carrefour, an action designed to highlight consumer concern about the
introduction of GE foods and to prompt other food producers and
distributors to support labelling.

'We hope to spread the message "Avoid GE-food to enjoy a healthy New
Year!" to families doing their Lunar New Year shopping. The fact is that
GE organisms are detrimental to the environment. Consuming GE-food
harbours unpredictable risks as there is still no international consensus
on food safety. The Chinese like to 'encourage the good and avoid the
bad' during New Year. We've chosen to give this message a lively
interpretation,' said He Feng, spokesperson for Guangzhou-based Green
Hope which recruited 30 volunteers for the event.

'We chose to visit this supermarket because Carrefour has promised not to
use GE ingredients in any of its own-label fresh produce worldwide.
Although Carrefour China is still working towards this goal, its policy
of fairness and non-discrimination makes it far more welcomed by China's
consumers than international corporations, such as Nestle, that maintain
a double standard. Carrefour also encourages its food suppliers to label
GE-products to protect consumers' right to knowledge and to choice. We
hope that more food producers and supermarkets will follow Carrefour's
example and let consumers choose their food with peace of mind,' said Mr.
Sze Pang-cheung, GE Campaigner for Greenpeace.

Carrefour is the largest foreign supermarket chain in China. Sujit
Shrestha, Carrefour's Fresh Division Manager carried out market research
in 2001 and the majority of consumers chose non-GE foods. Carrefour began
supplying non-GE products in November 2002 and found that daily sales
volumes of labelled non-GE products have been increasing ever since.

On 17th January, Greenpeace organised a forum on "GE Food and Food
Safety" and released a comprehensive survey report on the attitudes of
Guangzhou consumers to GE Food and Food Safety from research undertaken
by the city's Zhongshan University - the first scientific poll on GE Food
in Mainland China.

The report revealed that 87% of survey respondents wanted GE-Foods to be
labelled so that they could exercise their right to choose. These
findings are similar to surveys conducted in Hong Kong and other
countries, perhaps surprising for a 'developing' country. The survey also
showed that even if the price of non-GE food was 10% higher than non-GE
food, 44% of respondents would choose non-GE products.

On the evening of 17th January, Greenpeace organised a "Non-GE banquet"
and invited guests and journalists to taste safe food. On the afternoon
of 18th January, the GE-Roadshow visited Guangzhou's Tienhe district and
set up displays and distributed GE-Free products and leaflets. There was
a good response from residents who wanted lists of non-GE and GE foods so
that they could choose. A multimedia seminar organised after the event
was attended by over 40 residents who were thirsty for more information.

This consumer education programme is the first such activity for
Greenpeace in Mainland China.

Contact Person: Sze Pang Cheung


                                  PART III
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  Genetically Engineered Food Snubbed by Consumers in Guangzhou
SOURCE: Greenpeace China, Media Release
        http://www.greenpeace-china.org.hk/eng/gm_news_item.adp?id=402
DATE:   Jan 17, 2003

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Genetically Engineered Food Snubbed by Consumers in Guangzhou

Guangzhou, 17th Jan 2003 - Genetically engineered food products will not
be able to hide much longer in the largest food market in the world. Many
Chinese do not even know they are being sold GE products, but a new poll
shows they want a choice and some are even willing to pay more for non-GE
products. Already consumers in China have turned on companies like Nestle
for selling GE products not labelled. The unrest will grow as a local
group and Greenpeace take to the road to promote food safety.

Soya is a food staple in China, there are records of crops stretching
back at least 4800 years. Although soya has a long history in China,
something new has arrived with the soya in recent years. Because of
China's huge population, the country imports 50 percent of the soya
consumed, mainly from the US, Brazil and Argentina. A large portion of
this contains genes never found in soya when it was first grown in China.
A good portion of the soya is genetically engineered.

But many consumers are unaware they are not eating the same soya their
families have eaten for generations.

A survey conducted on behalf of Greenpeace in the southern city of China
showed that 64 percent of Guangzhou citizens did not know that they were
buying GE food products in supermarkets, but they clearly wanted the
choice. Over 80 percent of participants wanted GE products to be
labelled. Almost half said they would even be willing to pay more for
non-GE products, even if they cost as much as 10 percent more than the GE
products.

China's urban consumers are basically the same as consumers in developed
countries with the majority favouring non-GE food once they are given the
right to choose.

China faces a tough fight against multinational companies trying to push
their GE products on new markets in the developing world. Protection of
their natural diversity of one of the planets staple crops is just one of
many such fights China has faced since the market gates were blown wide
open by entry into the World Trade Organisation in 2001. China does not
want to join Mexico as centre of diversity that has had the original crop
strain contaminated by genetically engineered varieties, as Mexico did
with maize.

The Chinese Government has wisely taken a more cautious approach in
commercialising GE food crops because officials are uncertain whether the
market would accept GE food, but enforcement of the new GE labelling
legislation is still being worked out. This has left gaping loopholes for
many US biotech companies growing soya, and other foreign food giants
like Nestle which are very eager to exploit for the huge commercial gains
they stand to make.

But Chinese consumers are not swallowing this as easily as bean curd.
Late last year public unease boiled over with Nestle's marketing of
unlabelled GE food products in China. One web poll on China's largest
website (www.sina.com) recorded 5000 people signing up in just two days,
99 percent against Nestle's actions. Newspapers reported that Chinese
consumers were returning products to Nestle's offices.

Many Chinese people took offence to the fact that they have a right to
know what is in their food but were not being told. Although Nestle's
unique experience of anticipating consumers' needs and sating them with
GE-food products has paid off in many countries, China still has a huge
variety of natural foods which are used to produce mouth watering dishes
in dozens of regional cuisines.

And unrest has spread to many of these regions. Recently, Heilongjiang
province, responsible for 80 percent of soya exports from China, declared
a policy to keep GE soy away from the province. In the neighbouring
province of Liaoning, the provincial government demanded that soya milk
for school children must be non-GE. China's new regulation restricting GE
imports also lead to a decrease in soya imports and almost no corn
imports last year while China's own corn export to South East Asia
exceeded American corn for the first time.

While China is obviously becoming aware of the luming threat to their
food supply, many consumers are still unaware and that is why Greenpeace
and Greenhope, an enthusiastic and determined volunteers group, have
teamed up for the first GE Food Roadshow in the southern city of Guangzhou.

The fact that the Roadshow is being held in Guangzhou is very
appropriate. Dr. Sun Yat-sen, widely accepted as being founder of modern
China and the first President of the Republic, was born into a farming
family near the city - its famous Zongshan University is named after him.
Dr. Sun Yat-sen is revered by Chinese people for his progressive policies
and we wonder whether he would've judged GE-food as a step forward or a
step back, given that no one knows what the impact of GE crops and GE
food products will have on the country and its people.

The roadshow will run from Friday 17th to Monday 20th January and we will
host events, including a GE-free banquet and school visits, to promote
natural food as opposed to the genetically engineered strains that no one
asked for.

The roadshow takes place just before Chinese Lunar New Year and the
welcoming of the year of the Goat, a time for the clearing out of
unwanted items from your house. Let's hope that China gets rid of GE food
before it's too late, join us in building a biosafety Great Wall to keep
GE food out of China.

You may not be able to make it to Guangzhou to join us but you can follow
the roadshow by visiting this website to learn what the people of
Guangzhou think of GE food.

Contact Person: Mr. Sze Pang Cheung