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6-Regulation: Canada and China go for GE food labelling

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                                  PART I
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TITLE:  GMO labels approval expected
        Food processors could decide to ignore labelling regime, critics
SOURCE: National Post, Canada, by Ian Jack
DATE:   Jul 23, 2003

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GMO labels approval expected
Food processors could decide to ignore labelling regime, critics charge

OTTAWA - After years of behind-the-scenes negotiations, Canadian industry
may finally be ready to adopt food labels identifying products containing
genetically modified organisms, even though they aren't likely to appease
those who have been pushing the hardest for them.

The farm, food manufacturing and retailing groups that have worked for
more than three years on standards for the labels are voting on the
latest draft proposal, with a decision expected this month.

The government is said to be anxious to bring the lengthy process to an
end, and to be pushing for adoption of the draft regardless of the vote
outcome. That is possible because the process requires consensus, which
is defined as more than a simple majority but does not necessarily
require unanimity.

Opponents of the process come from both ends of the political spectrum.
Conservative critics say no one has proved there is anything wrong with
GMOs and the labelling is bowing to public opinion instead of scientific fact.

Consumer groups say the process is hopelessly flawed because industry was
in the driver's seat. They point to polls saying a majority of Canadians
want mandatory labelling, while this initiative will be voluntary. In
other words, despite three years of work, food processors could all
decide to ignore the labelling regime when it is in place.

"It's highly unlikely a company is going to voluntarily label a food as
containing GMOs. What is much more likely is that companies with GMO-free
products would label," said Lucy Sharratt of the Polaris Institute.

Consumer groups also complain the new standard being voted on, which has
not been released publicly, could allow even those companies that agree
to use labels to avoid them for products with less than 5% genetically
modified content. The equivalent European standard is 0.9%.

Most non-governmental organizations pulled out of the process long ago,
leaving businesses to hash it out under the auspices of the Canadian
General Standards Board, a federal government body that works with
industries to facilitate standards on everything from concrete blocks to
GMOs. The board almost lost patience recently, questioning publicly
whether the process was worth continuing given the lack of progress.

That last outburst, along with government pressure, brought the parties
back to the table in a more compromising mood, sources say.

In addition to the 5% standard, which would allow a lot of foods to
escape labelling, the latest compromise is believed to say the labelling
should only be adopted if an international standard on verification is

That could stall the process for years more, while allowing the Canadian
industry groups to claim they have completed their work, a happy
development for some of them.

Retailers are not opposed to the labeling, since it will allow them to
increase sales of more profitable private-line items that they can label
GMO-free, and may even drive down sales of competing brand names that
cannot do the same. But processors, including major multinationals, fear
exactly that, while agricultural groups worry about the logistics and
cost of keeping crops strictly segregated.

At the same time, many farm groups know their foreign customers want GMO-
free products. The Canadian Wheat Board, for instance, says that is the
case for four-fifths of its customers, and it is considering court action
to stop Monsanto Co. from getting Canadian approval for a GMO strain of
wheat that can withstand a popular weedkiller.

Another element of the proposed standard is believed to allow some
products to be labelled more weakly than an bald "contains GMOs." For
instance, products such as canola oil might be labelled "Product of
genetic engineering. Contains no genetically engineered material" instead.

Canada, the United States, China and Argentina are the largest world
producers of GMOs, while the European Union has banned their import.

                                  PART II
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TITLE:  GM Foods with an 'ID Card' Debut in Beijing
SOURCE: China Youth Daily , posted by People's Daily Online
DATE:   Jul 21, 2003

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GM Foods with an 'ID Card' Debut in Beijing

Starting from July 21 all genetically modified (GM) foods will be labeled
in markets in Beijing -- the first Chinese city to do so -- the China
Youth Daily reported Monday.

The newspaper reported that 10 genetically modified food products are now
on sale in Beijing, including "Huoniao," "Lubao," "Hailanhua,"
"Xiyingmen," "Jiaxiang," "Yulongren," "Hongle" and "Sicheng" salad oil.

Experts in this field indicate the GM label is not a symbol demonstrating
whether the food is healthy or not, but giving consumers the right to
know and the right to choose.

"The small label shows respect to consumers," said Wu Jianfan, director
of the Beijing Genetically Modified Agricultural Organisms Office.

Regulations on the Administration of Genetically Modified Agricultural
Organisms, effective March 20, 2002, stipulate that all GM produce listed
in its catalogue should be clearly labeled. While GM foods were readily
available in China, no GM food appeared with an "ID card" in 2002.

Yesterday, the Beijing Agricultural Bureau checked the quality of GM
produce in many supermarkets and two oilseed processing companies. It is
common that the use of the label is not standardized. Some produce is
described as being "made from GM soybeans, but not containing the GM
element," which experts said violates government rules.

In addition, some enterprises have applied for the genetically modified
organisms (GMO) labeling certificate, although they do not label produce
when putting it on the market. The phenomenon has been checked in
Beijing, the report added. (


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