Companies in China clear genetically engineered food off their shelves (18/7/2003)

The public mood that Chinese companies are reponding to (see below) reflects world-wide consumer concerns even in the main GM grain producing countries as two surveys have revealed this week:

*88% of Canadians perceive "food safety" as the top consumer issue.

While 60% are sure that the food they eat is safe, 68% are unsure that GM food is safe.

This was the major finding of the Consumers Council of Canada via its newly created Public Interest Network (PIN). The network is composed of 500 grassroots "thought leaders" who are influential personalities in their respective fields, are abreast with current consumer issues, and are actively involved in their communities

For more information about the Consumer Council and PIN:

Meanwhile 92% of consumers in the United States favor the mandatory labeling of GM food products - that is for GM food, and a majority (51%) of the respondents say that they are attracted to food with labels stating that they were not genetically modified. 54% of US women regard GM foods as unsafe to eat. Men were evenly divided on the issue.
These results were revealed by an opinion poll survey conducted by ABC NEWS with a sample of 1,024 adults.

for more information.
Companies in China clear genetically engineered food off their shelves

Non-GE policy becoming strong trend in the word's largest food market

Hong-Kong/Beijing, July 18, 2003 - Thirty-two food producers operating in China today announced they are now officially committed to not selling genetically engineered (GE) food in China. This is the first time food producers have publicly committed to such a policy in  China, the largest food market in the world.

The companies now committed to eliminating GE ingredients include internationally known brand names such as Wyeth, Mead Johnson, Wrigley and Lipton, which already have non-GE policy in many other countries. The local companies include large soy sauce producers in the Southern China region, such as Pearl River Bridge, Lee Kum Kee and Amoy, as well as a major soymilk brand, Vitasoy.

The commitment from the 32 companies appears in sharp contrast to the record of Nestle - a multinational caught in selling GE products in China last year and by now famous for its double- standards. The scandal alerted the consumers about the problem of unknown GE in  their food and made them return Nestle products back to retailers.

"Some food companies are smart enough to learn from Nestle's bad example," said Greenpeace campaigner Sze Pang-cheung. "Today we welcome the first wave of companies making public commitment in China but the truth is that non-GE trend is here to stay."

The local food companies committing to non-GE benefit greatly from  the new government policy introduced in March, which commits to keeping production in the largest soy production provinces in North East  China non-GE. China is the world's fourth largest soy producer. The Chinese Government has recently stepped up its efforts to enforce the GE labelling legislation and conducted inspections. Officials have emphasised producers selling unlabelled GE products would be penalised.

"Food businesses in China are joining the ranks of a growing number
of companies world-wide by committing to non-GE standards. Chinese consumers are no different from people elsewhere: people want non-GE food. The Chinese Government is taking seriously their right to choose. The choice left for food producers is either to label their products as GE and face consumer rejection, or to risk violating the regulations," said Sze Pang-cheung.

Greenpeace urges more companies to follow suit to address consumers' growing concern on GE food. (2)

For more information: Sze Pang-cheung, Campaigner with Greenpeace China (Beijing), Tel: +86-10-65546931 or Mob: 86-13683154665; Percy Mak, Media Officer with Greenpeace China (Hong Kong), (852)-93816304, (852)-28548326; Greenpeace International Press Office, Teresa Merilainen, Tel: +31205236637

Notes to the editor:

(1) 32 producers (with 53 brands) sent formal statements to Greenpeace confirming they do not to use GE ingredients in their products sold  in China.

(2) According to a survey conducted by Zhongshan University in December 2002, 87% of the respondents demand labelling of GE products and 56% would choose non-GE food over GE food if given the choice.

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