Debate and Policies on Labeling GM Foods
Policies by Country (Asia and the
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and New Zealand
To assess the costs that would
follow GM labeling policies, the Australia New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA)
hired a U.S.
company to study what costs required labeling would pass to consumers. The firm found that buyers would have to pay
about 0.5% to 15% more for GM foods.
However, ANZFA did not believe the findings of the study claiming there
were flaws. In December 2001, the ANZFA
passed regulations that required GM foods to be labeled if the “novel DNA
and/or novel protein” (Rousu and Huffman, 2001) was
present in the finished product. As in
the EU policy, labeling is only required if the GM content or any ingredient is
1% or more. If an ingredient is considered
GM, it must be labeled as such on the list of ingredients, and the phrase “genetically
modified” must be next to the name of the product on the front of the
label. Highly refined foods, food using “GM
processing aids” (Rousu and Huffman, 2001) and food
served in restaurants are exempt from the standards. Australia
has a nationwide food standard system, but some states within the nation want
to have more liberty in labeling policies in their own area. If this passes, the system would be similar
to the one in place in the EU (Rousu and Huffman,
On April 1, 2001, a new policy was passed requiring the
labeling for 28 products, including various soy and corn products as well as
unprocessed potatoes and tomatoes. If
the GM content is less than 5%, the products do not have to be labeled as GM,
but companies may volunteer the information on the label if they wish. For those products producers voluntarily
label, GM or non, must carry one of the following
phrases: ‘genetically modified,’ ‘inseparable,’ or ‘no GMOs
present.’ Amendments to the Food
Sanitation Law make it illegal to “sell or import GM foods that have not been
approved or inspected.” (Rousu and Huffman, 2001)
Despite 3 recalls of GM foods and the new policy, the U.S.
is optimistic trade with Japan
will not be disturbed. For the U.S.
this is crucial since Japan
is America’s number
one trading partner agriculturally (Rousu and
Up until 2001, China
was pretty liberal with its policies toward biotechnology and GM food. However, in 2001, China
banned several GM crops including rice, wheat, tomato, cotton, and
did not want to have their crops banned from import to other nations, and did
this to conserve trading. In May 2001, a
56 article regulation on biotechnology was passed in an attempt to strengthen
control over agricultural aspects, but the report was vaguely worded
and concluded there would be safety certification for all GM food and all
GM foods will have to be labeled (Rousu and
Why all the different
The four main reasons a country
(or an individual) would oppose GM foods are: concerns about human health, ethical
objection, concerns about the environmental, and “worries about trading with
other countries” (Rousu and Huffman, 2001). Countries place different emphasis on each of
these factors, and this causes different labeling policies to arise. Countries other than America
are apt to oppose GM foods because of ethical objections against messing with
nature. Europe is
also against GM foods because of environmental concerns. In European politics, environmental groups
like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth have more effect and they are vocal in
their opposition to GM foods. GM safety
is a concern in countries like Australia,
New Zealand, China
and Japan. In these countries, labeling is required to
give consumers a choice in whether they want to buy GM foods or not. Countries of the EU are also concerned about
GM food safety especially in the light of recent government safety standards
(the BSE crisis, the HIV/AIDS tainted blood scandal in France,
and the dioxin scandal in Belgium). China
is mainly concerned with losing trading partners, especially in Europe. Canada
and the U.S.
feel the “potential threats from genetic modification [are] minor compared to
the potential rewards” (Rousu and Huffman,
2001). The U.S.
has a lax policy compared to the rest of the world when it comes to GM foods,
but in the past the U.S.
has had stricter food safety standards.
European fears may be unfounded, but GM producers in the U.S.
will nonetheless have to deal with EU policies (Rousu
and Huffman, 2001).
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