Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Producers, Sellers Urged to Label GM Food in China

Enterprises which fail to label genetically modified (GM) products they produce or sell will face punishment, farming authorities in Beijing have announced.


Enterprises which fail to label genetically modified (GM) products they produce or sell will face punishment, farming authorities in Beijing have announced.

The Beijing Agricultural Bureau (BAA) launched a month-long inspection on genetically modified farming products on July 21, urging GM food producers and sellers to label the products.

The national regulations governing GM farming products, which took effect on March 20, 2002, prescribe that all products made from or containing GM materials should be labeled.

However, some GM products on the Beijing market were found not to bear such labels.

A check on 22 products in March this year showed that all were GM products but none were labeled.

BAA officials said products and earnings of enterprises in violation of the regulations will be confiscated, with an extra fine ranging from 10,000 yuan (1,200 US dollars) to 50,000 yuan (6,024 US dollars).

Cheng Xianlu, director of the BAA, said that consumers' rights to know about the commodities must be guaranteed.

Currently, GM-crop growing areas in China exceed 650,000 hectares and six GM plants, including soybean and rice, have been approved.

As most people still do not know about GM food and there are still disputes about safety, Lin Zhongping, a professor of plant genetics with Beijing University, said it is necessary to let consumers know which products are genetically modified and which are not.

"They have the right to choose," Lin said.

However, he personally believes that the GM foods on the marketare safe. "So far, there is no evidence showing GM foods are harmful to health."

In spite of his knowledge of transgenosis technology, Wang Lianzheng, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, said he is still not sure of its safety.

Wang Jie, an official in charge of bio-species security at the State Environmental Protection Administration, said no evidence ofharm does not necessarily mean the products are safe.

Citing acheomycin and streptomycin, two antibiotics, as examples, the official said that the side effect of a new product is usually be found only after a long period of time.

The two antibiotics were once regarded as highly effective when they were first put into use, but gradually proved to be very harmful to people's teeth and hearing.

"Maybe there is no problem with GM foods. But if they do harm people's health, it will be no minor problem. As products of genetic technology, they might affect several generations of people," Wang Jie said. "We should be cautious."

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