Daily News Archive
Pledge No GE Food in China
(Beyond Pesticides, July 24, 2003)
Thirty-two food companies have publicly committed to not sell any genetically
engineered (GE) food in China, as a result of steadfast campaigning
by Greenpeace China to help consumers keep their right to non-GE foods.
Each company sent a formal letter to Greenpeace confirming they do not
use GE ingredients in their products sold in China. "Transnational
food companies are learning the lesson. There is a heavy price to pay
for applying double standards to Chinese consumers," said Greenpeace
China campaigner Sze Pang-cheung on Friday. The 32 companies include
the corporations Lipton, Wrigley, Wyeth and Mead Johnson. Among the
local companies to join the campaign are large soy sauce producers in
southern China, such as Pearl River Bridge, Lee Kum Kee and Amoy, as
well as a major soymilk brand, Vitasoy.
Recent policies in China have supported consumer choice for non-GE foods.
A recent survey found that consumers in China are demanding these policies
in order to protect this choice. The survey, conducted by Zhongshan
University in December 2002, showed that a majority of people questioned
would choose food free of genetically modified ingredients, and many
would be willing to pay more for it.
Back in July 2002, the Chinese government installed obligatory labeling
of all transgenic food. Enforcement of this policy increased because
of a recent nationwide inspection, which emphasized that producers selling
unlabeled transgenic food would be penalized. "The choice for food
producers is either to label their genetically engineered products and
face consumer rejection, or to risk violating the regulation by covering
up the true nature of their products," said Sze. "Companies
simply have to make the right decision for consumers, the environment
and their business interests."
Additionally, the Chinese government introduced a new policy in March
that helps keep soy production traditional in northeast China. This
policy is especially significant considering that China is the world's
fourth largest soy producer, and that traditional farming is in danger
of falling by the wayside because of multinational biotechnology companies.
Biotechnology companies force farmers to sign contracts when purchasing
their genetically engineered seeds and crops. These grower's contracts
prevent farmers from being able to store seeds from year to year, which
the biotech companies claim would be a patent infringement. Additionally,
"terminator technology," which is not currently being commercialized
but is owned by a major seed company and USDA, will produce plants with
sterile seeds, making the practice of seed saving impossible.
China's policies are miles ahead of U.S. policy, which does not require
any labeling on GE foods. This is problematic for U.S. consumers who
take issue with the environmental and health concerns that come with
the farming and consumption of transgenic foods. Dean Hamer, chief of
the biochemistry laboratory at the National Cancer Institute, stated
at a recent talk on genes, "
it is essential that people are
openly informed about what changes are being made to their foods. It
should be part of the labeling. There would be oversight over this.
I think where the United States is having difficulties is that they
have given too much power to the big agriculture companies like Monsanto.
You know when you get a drug from the drugstore you know it's been tested
in some way. You should have the same when you go to the grocery store."
There are a host
of other concerns with genetically engineered food such as insect resistance,
superweeds, and the drift of GE pollen onto to conventional or organic
crops. For details on these and other concerns, see Beyond Pesticides'
Reasons to Say No To Genetically Modified Crops and Foods. View
other publications, media and comments regarding GE at Beyond Pesticides
Genetic Engineering Program Page.