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Nestle Urged to 'Tell Truth' About GMOs

Chinese lawyers and experts yesterday urged Nestle to reveal whether the Swiss firm's Nestle Nesquik contains genetically modified organisms (GMO), as widely suspected.

Zhu Yanling, the plaintiff, bought Nestle Nesquik at a Carrefour outlet in March last year.

"Soon, I learned from a report by Greenpeace the product contained genetically modified elements,'' she said. "As a consumer, my right to know the truth was tampered with.''

The 33-year-old woman asked for a refund, plus compensation of 6.8 yuan (80 US cents), which is as much as the price of one bag of the drink.

At a forum organized by Greenpeace and the Shanghai-based East China University of Politics and Law, Wu Dong, a Chinese attorney who acts as the plantiff's lawyer, claimed that Nestle's instant drink contains genetically modified ingredients, but its label does not say that.

Despite an invitation, no one from Nestle showed up at the forum.

Regulations released by ministries of agriculture and public health in 2002 require all genetically modified foods or foods made with genetically modified materials to be labelled.

A total of 17 products, including soybeans, corns, rapeseeds, cotton seeds and tomatoes become the first ones required to be labelled.

Last month, Zhu and Wu flied to Switzerland to discuss the problem with senior staff of the company.

Nestle China Ltd has said the disputed product does not fall in line with any of the five categories outlined by the Ministry of Agriculture.

Wu stressed that as a world-renowned firm, Nestle ought to shoulder social responsibility.

The case became more complicated when a second test on the product at the end of last month showed no genetically modified ingredient was found, contradicting the findings of an earlier examination in August.

"No matter what the result is, there is no denying consumers find it difficult to know the truth about such a product,'' Wu said.

On the two different results, Wu Zhangzhu from GeneScan, a leader in the field of molecular biological testing of genetically modified organisms in food, feeds and agricultural raw materials, said that a test may not be that exact.

(China Daily January 8, 2004)

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