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No verdict on Nestle drink hearing
( 2004-01-18 23:40) (China Daily By Zhang Yong)

Nestle's Nesquik product contain's "very few" ingredients considered genetically modified (GM) by certain laboratory standards, says a report by Agro-Biotech Centre of the Shanghai Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

Invited by the Shanghai No 2 People's Court to settle a consumer dispute, the Centre's report also noted that by Ministry of Agriculture standards, the instant drink can be also considered "free of any GM ingredients."

A Shanghai consumer is battling the Switzerland-based food giant claiming it uses genetically modified ingredients in its products.

The court opened a hearing Sunday but reached no verdict.

Zhu Yanling, the plaintiff, bought Nestle Nesquik for her three-year-old son at a local supermarket in March last year.

She learned that the product contained genetically modified ingredients after reading a report by Greenpeace on the Internet.

"As a consumer, my right to know the truth was infringed upon because there was no label on the package," she said.

Zhu took the case to court and seeking to return the product and win compensation of 6.8 yuan (80 US cents), the price of one drink. She also wanted Nestle to label its products to identify GM ingredients.

"We consulted the Ministry of Agriculture and were told to test the GM ingredients under the ministry's standards released last May," said Zhang Dabing, a senior research fellow with the centre which released the report Sunday.

"So our final result, using the ministry's standards, is that there are no GM ingredients in the Nestle product samples we tested," Zhang said at the court on Sunday.

However, a second test, using the latest and more strict standards, showed the same Nestle Nesquik samples did contain some genetically engineered soybean elements.

"The two different results are for the court's reference, we cannot make further comments," Zhang told China Daily.

Nestle China Ltd admitted earlier that part of its Nestle Nesquik product in China may contain certain soybean from Brazil.

But the company insisted its products sold in China have no GM elements.

"We firmly believe in the standards set by the Ministry of Agriculture and we can say our products have no genetically modified ingredients at all," said Li Yiming, a lawyer for Shanghai Nestle Co.

Wu Tong, the plaintiff's attorney, however, argued that "the Ministry of Agriculture's standards mainly apply to those soybean and soybean-related products but the Nestle Nesquik can be regarded as a chocolate drink rather than a soybean-related product."

Wu asked the court to adopt more strict standards, such as those set by the State (General) Administration for Quality Supervision and Inspection and Quarantine.

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 requiring labelling.

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.

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