Debate and Policies on Labeling GM Foods


Labeling Policies by Country (Asia and the Pacific)

Permission granted by International Otter Survival Fund.

Click on the map to be directed to the original site.



Australia 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, 2001).  




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 Huffman, 2001).




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 soybeans.  China 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 Huffman, 2001).



Why all the different policies?

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).   



Introduction Policies Policies cont. Detection Pros and Cons Works Cited

Davidson Biology Home


Davidson Home


GMOs Course Home


This page was created by Nicole Hesson.  

If you have questions, comments, or concerns, email the editor.