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January 16, 2012

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Official reassures over GM safety

A SHANGHAI food safety official said yesterday there was no need for panic over genetically modified food and said the authorities had effective measures in place to regulate its production.

The statement was in response to Hu Min, a Shanghai People's Congress deputy, who had urged during the annual session of the local lawmaking body that the management of genetically modified food be enhanced and scientific research on the effects of GM food to people's health and the short-term and long-term effects on food safety encouraged.

In a bill presented to the congress, Hu said all food sold locally should have labels stating whether it contained GM material as people had a right to know so that they could make an informed choice.

He also said in the bill that more research should be done to invent a simple method so people can check for GM material at home. Hu also suggested the city or district food administration evaluate the quality of a restaurant by its use of GM food.

Gu Zhenhua, vice director of Shanghai Food Safety Office, said genetically modified food was still controversial. "The United States is the nation with the widest adoption of GM food, while Japan and the Europe are cautious on the issue."

He said China never bans the use of GM food, but rules producers must clarify on packaging if a product is a GM food or of its main ingredient is GM food.

The major responsibility to check GM material and its use in the city belongs to the local agricultural commission and the entry-exit authority, Gu said.

"Concerning the controversy on its safety, GM material is banned in infant food in the nation," he said.

He said GM technology could improve production and some technologies could also enhance food safety.


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