Consumer Affairs Agency to adopt stricter rules for labeling of non-genetically modified foods

TOKYO, Feb. 1 – The Consumer Affairs Agency’s expert panel agreed on Jan. 31 to introduce a stricter standard to certify non-genetically modified food products, allowing only foods with technically zero genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to be labeled GM-free.

Under the current rules, foods containing 5 percent or less of GM ingredients can bear the GM-free label. For instance, soybeans can be labeled non-GM even if the product contained up to 5 percent of GM beans due to unintentional mixing in the process of production or distribution. However, consumer groups have been calling for the revision of the rules, saying the current standard is misleading for consumers.

In the expert panel meeting, members basically agreed on a draft plan for the new standard, which states that food products can be labeled non-GM only when GMOs contained are as close to zero as possible to the limit of detection.

Panel members representing consumers welcomed the revision, saying labels would match the actual contents under the new rules and would prevent consumers from misidentifying products.

Meanwhile, members representing manufacturers and retailers expressed concern that companies may be forced to raise prices of their products because the new rules would require them to spend more time and money for inspections of farm produce. They also warned that the existing production and distribution system for non-GM products created under the current standard could break down.

The panel plans to discuss creating a new label for products that contain up to 5 percent of GM ingredients, which means consumers looking for GM-free foods will have two options to choose from, either non-GM products or products with 5 percent or less of GM ingredients.

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