Consumer groups call for stricter GMO labeling rules

Consumer groups call for stricter GMO labeling rules


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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