logo logo

No compromise on GM food labelling

The Sun (Malaysia) | 16 April 2007

No compromise on GM food labelling

Llew-Ann Phang

KUALA LUMPUR (April 16, 2007): Malaysia will not compromise on mandatory labelling for genetically-modified (GM) foods or products in its negotiations with the US for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Azmi Khalid said the US wanted American companies exporting GM products to Malaysia to only voluntarily declare them, but the cabinet has insisted on mandatory labelling so that consumers can make informed choices.

"Without the label, we will not know the contents of the food," he said after launching the Second International Meeting of Academic Institutions and Organisations Involved in Biosafety Education and Training here today.

"We will not allow our population to consume without being able to assess what they can or cannot take as food or medicine."

Mandatory labelling for GM products will come into force after the Biosafety Bill is tabled and passed in Parliament this month.

Currently, more than 40 countries, including European Union member states, Canada, Japan, China, Australia and New Zealand have implemented mandatory labelling.

Labelling addresses health concerns such as potential allergenic effects, and religious, ethical or moral concerns about halal or vegetarian foods.

However, in the recently concluded FTA negotiations between the US and South Korea, the latter agreed to waive safety tests on US foods containing GM organisms.

"The country needs legislation and Malaysia seems to be one of the few countries in the lead that is putting the legal framework in place," Azmi said, adding that the government had been working on a Biosafety Bill since 1996 and hopes it will be enforced by year end.

The bill also provides for the formation of an advisory body of experts who will research food content, and an approving body.

On the issue of logging in Lojing in Kelantan, Azmi said Deputy Mentri Besar Datuk Ahmad Yakon should check with the mentri besar’s office before claiming, as reported in a daily today, that a gag order had not been issued to the Forestry Department.

"He is still denying that there was written instruction not to give information to the government. I would advise him to check with the Mentri Besar’s office because if I expose the letter, it will be very embarrassing for them," he said.

Lojing, an ungazetted forest area, has reportedly lost 25,000ha of its green lung for farming near Gua Musang.

 source: Sun2Surf