Consumer groups call for stricter GMO labeling rules

Consumer groups call for stricter GMO labeling rules

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GMO 완전표시제 소비자 기본권, 소비자 단체들 한 목소리
Korea’s imports of genetically modified agricultural products is on the rise,
a demand for stricter rules on GMO labeling on processed foods
is also gaining momentum.
Our Hwang Hojun has the story.
Consumer groups in Korea are calling on health authorities to come up with a GMO labeling law that closes existing loopholes.
They say that if an ingredient is genetically modified, there needs to be a label indicating that fact, whether it can be detected in the final product or not.

But what are GMOs?

“It’s the process of extracting the appropriate genes from the DNA of one living organism and then artificially inserting that gene into another living organism. If that living organism is a plant, then it becomes a GMO crop.”

The issue has taken on a greater significance in recent years as Korea became one of the biggest importers of edible GMO products in the world.

The country’s imports jumped to two-point-one-five million tons in 2015,… a sharp rise from the roughly one-point-five million tons in 2008.

The bulk of GMO goods coming into Korea are soybeans and corn, which are used to make cooking oils and sweeteners.
In these products, which consist mostly of fat, no DNA proteins can be detected — which some view as a loophole in the current law.

“The Korea Food and Drug Administration requires GMO labeling on processed foods when there is a genetically modified ingredient among the first five… and when there is biotech residue detected in the finished product.
For example, the main ingredient in canola oil is a genetically modified organism, but because no biotech residue has been detected in the final product, the label doesn’t have to indicate the use of a genetically modified ingredient.”

Four groups are spearheading a campaign to change that.
They include iCO-OP, which promotes ethical consumption and production… and the Citizens’ Coalition for Economic Justice
They have managed to get more than a hundred-and-seventy thousand people to sign a petition supporting the proposed revision to the law,… and they submitted the petition to parliament in September.

These groups see proper food labeling as a fundamental right of the citizen.

“Food labeling in Korea is all based on the raw ingredients. It doesn’t make sense that GMO products are an exception. The consumer’s right to know is protected by the Constitution, along with the right of self-determination and the right to pursue happiness. If consumers were able to choose products by comparing the ingredients, they would be able to experience a sense of satisfaction.”

Along with imports, awareness of GMO ingredients has risen among consumers and that could lead to change.
Until now, the experts say, food labeling has been centered on the needs of the government and big corporations… rather than ordinary people.

“The global trend is that labeling standards are becoming more consumer-oriented. Korea should follow that trend, too, and frankly, it’s not really a choice. Corporations and the government should put consumers first and provide information about GMOs.”

Consumer awareness has led to some voluntary changes in the market.
Cooperative grocery stores popping up across the country selling natural and organic food products, and customers at the big retailers can also find products without genetically modified ingredients.

If other stores follow in their footsteps, more customers will have the final say about which products they put on their table.
Hwang Hojun, Arirang News.

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