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Authorities: GM food must be labeled
( 2003-07-31 15:00) (Eastday.com)

Enterprises failing to label genetically modified products they produce or sell will face punishment, farming authorities in Beijing announced.

The Beijing Agricultural Bureau launched a month-long inspection on genetically modified farming products on July 21, urging GM food producers and sellers to label the products.

The national regulations governing GM farming products, which took effect on March 20, 2002, prescribe that all products made from or containing GM materials should be labeled.

However, some GM pro-ducts on the Beijing market were found without labels.

A check on 22 products in March showed that all were GM products but none were labeled.

The bureau officials said products and earnings of enterprises in violation of the regulations will be confiscated, with an extra fine ranging from 10,000 yuan (US$1,200) to 50,000 yuan.

Cheng Xianlu, the bureau director, said that consumers' right to know about the commodities must be guaranteed.

Currently, GM-crop growing areas in China exceed 650,000 hectares and six GM plants, including soybean and rice, have been approved.

Because most people still do not know about GM food and there are still disputes about safety, it is necessary to let consumers know which products are genetically modified and which are not, said Lin Zhongping, a professor of plant genetics with Beijing University.

"They have the right to choose," Lin said.

However, he personally believes that the GM foods on the market are safe. "So far, there is no evidence showing GM foods are harmful to health."

In spite of his knowledge of transgenosis technology, Wang Lianzheng, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, said he is still not sure of its safety.

Wang Jie, an official in charge of biospecies security at the State Environmental Protection Administration, said no evidence of harm does not necessarily mean the products are safe.

Citing acheomycin and streptomycin, two antibiotics, as examples, the official said that the side effect of a new product is usually found only after a long period.

The two antibiotics were once regarded as highly effective, but proved to be harmful to teeth and hearing.

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