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Firms' 'Double Standards' on GE Food
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Some transnational companies are applying double standards to produce genetically engineered (GE) food in China, a Greenpeace campaigner said.

"Over the years, we have come to realize the sad fact that many transnational firms are applying double standards in China," said Lorena Luo, a Greenpeace campaigner for food and agriculture.

She said Unilever and Nestle, two global conglomerates, have been producing GE food in the Chinese market since the 1990s.

Greenpeace claimed the two companies, well as others, adopt different policies in their own countries.

Latest tests by Greenpeace's "independent laboratory" on the products of Japanese firm, Glico, revealed the presence of GE ingredients in four of its snack foods.

GE ingredients were also found in a German company's brand of biscuits.

The products did not carry labels saying they contained GE ingredients.

Ezaki Glico Co, based in Osaka, and the German Metro Group, have manufacturing and distribution rights in China.

A day after the test findings were published, Glico released a statement saying it had always insisted on not using GE ingredients in their products sold worldwide, and has "never applied double standards" in China and Japan.

Metro, too, said it "adopts an unitary global standard" and that there is no difference in the "quality standard" it implements in China and Germany.

Greenpeace said it remained skeptical about the companies' responses, after it failed earlier this year to receive a written guarantee from them not to use GE ingredients in their food.

"They never responded four months ago when we inquired, and it is impossible that they could have replaced all GE ingredients in their products in the China market during this time," Luo said.

However, she said the companies had not violated the law.

A 2002 Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) regulation stipulates that only five categories of GE products should be clearly labeled when sold in the country - soya, corn, cole, cotton and tomato seeds.

Processed GE food products such as biscuits, snacks and drinks are not required to have such labeling.

Ezaki Glico and Metro Group have not broken the law, but Zou Ping, deputy director of the MOA's GE office said earlier the ministry had begun a detailed probe into the matter.

Greenpeace's powers are limited to only "urging companies to comply with commercial ethics and respect Chinese consumers," Zou said.

Greenpeace said Chinese lawmakers should broaden the existing scope of GE food labeling.

"It is only through such a legal modification that consumers can truly enjoy their right to be informed, and choose to act on that right," Luo said.

"There has been enormous debate on the safety of genetically modified organisms (GMO), and as of now, there is no global consensus.

"Moreover, GE foods only emerged in the past decade; their long-term security cannot be fully evaluated today.

"Because of this situation, a principle of prevention should be adopted, and no GMOs should be used in food products," she said.

Kraft Foods adopted a non-GE policy on the Chinese mainland after its products were found to contain GE ingredients last year.

The Hong Kong-based Greenpeace China began its anti-GE food campaign in 1999.

(China Daily June 21, 2007)

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