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3-Food: Labels unchanged despite new rules in Thailand

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TITLE:  Labels unchanged despite new rules
        Disclosure demand too weak, say critics
SOURCE: The Bangkok Post, Thailand, by Porpot Changyawa
DATE:   May 12, 2003

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Labels unchanged despite new rules
Disclosure demand too weak, say critics

Labels on food products on supermarket shelves remained unchanged
yesterday as the regulation requiring labelling of genetically-modified
ingredients came into force for the first day.

Greenpeace, which has campaigned for the labelling rule, blamed the lapse
on loopholes created by the loosely-written rule announced a year ago by
the Public Health Ministry.

The rule requires labelling on 24 types of products made from GM corn and
soybeans. A product where one of the three main ingredients contains more
than 5% GM materials must be labelled "made from genetically-modified
corn or soybeans".

However, a survey at a Bangkok supermarket yesterday found that none of
the products made from corn and soybeans, from tofu to soy milk to corn
snacks, was carrying such a label.

Consumers said they knew too little about genetically-modified organisms
(GMOs) to be concerned.

"If they want to stress the impact of GM materials in food, the authority
should include possible side-effects in the labels, too," said Wacharee
Narakul, 42, a nurse who was shopping at a Lotus superstore.

"We expect little change to come from the rule. We know they have left a
lot of room for producers to get away with not informing consumers," said
Greenpeace Southeast Asia campaigner Varoonvarn Svangsopakul.

Even products which Greenpeace knew contained GM materials, such as
Nestle's baby food Cerelac, did not need a special label under the rule,
she said.

Many more products would need to change their labels if the Food and
Drugs Administration had set a benchmark of 1% instead of 5%, and based
the requirement on overall ingredients, not only the top three.

Corn syrup, corn starch, and soybean starch used in the products would be
identified under a stricter guideline.

"To continue using the present rule is to continue lying to consumers.
It's their right to know what they eat," Ms Varoonvarn said.

She also called on the FDA to be strict and thorough in implementing the

Thailand is said to have based its labelling rule on a Japanese model,
but Japan had another law banning imports of GM materials. The only GM
materials Japan deals with are ones produced domestically.

Greenpeace also wanted the rules to be extended to cover potatoes,
papayas, and tomatoes.

The FDA says it has no equipment to check GM presence in food other than
corn and soybean.