GUANGZHOU, China, July 22, 2003 (ENS): For the first time
food producers in China have publicly committed themselves
not to sell genetically modified food. Thirty-two food
companies producing 53 brands have agreed to sell only
food products that are free of transgenic ingredients,
the result of a campaign by Greenpeace China.
The 32 producers sent formal statements to Greenpeace
confirming they do not use genetically engineered (GE)
ingredients in their products sold in China.
Greenpeace China campaigner Sze Pang-cheung said Friday,
"Transnational food companies are learning the
lesson. There is a heavy price to pay for applying double
standards to Chinese consumers."
Several well known brand names are among the 32 food
producers promising not to use genetically modified
ingredients in their products sold in China including
Lipton, Wrigley, Wyeth and Mead Johnson. These companies
are also selling foods free of genetically modified
ingredients in other countries.
The local companies include 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.
Last July, the Chinese government introduced compulsory
labeling of transgenic food. More recently it has stepped
up measures to enforce the labeling legislation by conducting
a nationwide inspection. Agriculture officials emphasised
that producers selling unlabeled products containing
genetically modified ingredients would be penalized.
The food companies committing to foods free of transgenic
ingredients benefit from a new government policy introduced
in March which commits to keeping soy production in
northeast China traditional. China is the world's fourth
largest soy producer.
The majority of Chinese consumers do not want genetically
engineered foods, Sze says, and the Chinese government
is taking the consumer's right to choose seriously.
Greenpeace China released the country's first survey
of consumer attitudes to transgenic foods in January.
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.
A majority of 87 percent of those surveyed wanted genetically
engineered food products to be labeled.
"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."
When Greenpeace China revealed Nestle's overseas practice
of selling genetically modified foods, including baby
food, in China and other Asian countries, the Swiss
based company's "double standards" met with
angry reactions from Chinese consumers who returned
products to Nestle, Sze said.
According to Sze, the consumption of foods free of
genetically engineered ingredients is a growing trend
in China. He is urging more companies to address consumers'
concerns about GE food. These concerns include fear
of food allergies triggered by modified proteins in
transgenic foods, and concerns that modified foods might
be less nutritious or more toxic than traditionally
In 2002, genetically modified crops were cultivated
on some 59 million hectares globally. Ninety-nine percent
of these crops were grown in four countries: the USA
with 66 percent, Argentina with 23 percent, Canada with
six percent, and China with four percent.