Japanese Government Drafts Law for Partial Labeling of GE Foods

July 30, 1999 - Japan Drafts Law On Labeling Gene-Altered Food

TOKYO (Nikkei) - Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
settled Friday on a draft version of a law governing the labeling of food
containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs), The Nihon Keizai Shimbun
Saturday reported in its morning edition, citing ministry sources.

Soybeans, corn or potatoes grown with gene-altering technology and
processed products using them will have to be labeled as such. The same
rule will be applied if the presence of GMOs or altered protein can be
detected. Under the law, which is scheduled to take effect in April 2000,
the majority of foods containing plant protein, including tofu and corn
snacks, will have to bear such labels.

Concerns over mandatory labeling have been expressed by food producers,
which are worried that costs will rise, and by the U.S., a major exporter
of gene-altered crops. The aim of the law is to protect consumer choice,
however, according to the Nikkei story. Under the draft version, the
requirements will be limited to genetically altered soybeans, corn and
potatoes because those three now account for the bulk of gene-altered
crops. Japan relies on U.S. imports of soybeans and corn.

Food companies using soybeans, corn or potatoes imported from the U.S. will
have to test their products for genetic modifications and label the goods
if necessary. If a product's makeup cannot easily be determined because it
contains unmodified foods mixed with GMO ingredients, the producer may have
to label it as unable to be classified, suggesting it contains GMOs. Highly
processed products such as soy sauce and soybean oil are not expected to
require labeling. The ministry will issue a list of any companies lax in
meeting the labeling requirements and will give them instructions on how to
revise their practices.