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September 6, 2011

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Labels often go unseen on gene-altered foods

LOCAL consumers have complained that "genetically modified food" is not clearly labeled on some edible oils, which they bought by mistake despite their fears that GM food may be harmful to people's health.

Food that is genetically modified is allowed to be sold in China, but manufacturers must tell consumers plainly on the label that the product is made from GM food.

GM foods are those where the genetic structure has been altered in a lab, leading to such products as insect-resistant crops (creating no need for pesticides) and tomatoes that take longer to rot.

A consumer surnamed Wang said she would never have known that Fulinmen soybean oil is made from genetically modified soybeans if people hadn't told her.

"The words 'made from GM soybeans' were so small that seniors should read them with a magnifier," she said.

"If I had known that, I wouldn't have bought the oil," she said.

Yesterday Shanghai Daily found that some brands of oil, such as Fulinmen and Jinlongyu, confirmed Wang's complaint.

The line on the label was mixed with other information, such as best-before date, and was not easy to notice.

Local industrial and commercial authorities said the country's law doesn't specify how clearly the line should be.

"So there is no standard for us to inspect whether the words are 'remarkable' or not," said Zhang Yusong, an official with the Shanghai Industrial and Commercial Administrative Bureau.

Companies acknowledged they knew about consumers' concern over GM food, but said that if the disclosure were really "remarkable," the products may not sell at all.

At present, experts haven't reached an agreement on the safety of GM food, as some experts believe that such food may cause allergies, or might cause resistance to drugs. Other experts, however, say that no instance has been found linking GM food to health damage in people since the technology came into use more than a decade ago.


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