Korea Debate over GE Imports

Web Note: South Korea is one of the largest importers of US soybeans and
corn in the world. Korea also has a large and vocal anti-GE consumer

Korea Times
September 24, 2002
Activists Express Concern Over Import Approval for GMO Corn

The government is continuing to approve the import of genetically modified
crops and food, sparking protests from farm and consumer groups which view
them as harmful to public health and the environment.

Two types of GMO (genetically modified organisms) corn such as ''MON810and
''Roundup Ready Corn GA21, produced by Monsanto Company of the U.S.,
recently passed government inspections and will be approved for import, the
Korea Food and Drug Administration (KFDA) said yesterday.

The hybrid variants of maize, which were engineered to resist pests, were
found to pose no safety problems, such as toxicity or allergic reactions, a
KFDA official said. The modified corn is the fourth kind of food to be
approved by the KFDA since it began conducting safety inspections of foreign
GMO products from August 1999.

''Roundup Ready Soybean, a GMO bean product of Monsanto had already received
the stamp of approval from the KFDA in 2000, while two kinds of enzyme made
from genetically­engineered microorganisms also passed inspections last

Seven other types of GMO products from the U.S., England and Switzerland are
also in the process of undergoing safety inspections. If no major problems
arise, import permission will be given to them in the near future.

''The fear consumers have about GMO products is largely vague, said the KFDA
official, adding that the approved products had all been found safe for
consumption by the U.S. and other European countries.

''Considering that we rely heavily on crops grown overseas, GMO products
allow us to import more products at a more affordable price, the official

But local civic groups are raising concern about the possible influx of GMO
goods, saying that they pose a serious health risk as well as violate the
laws of nature.

''Just because they are considered safe now doesnt mean they will not be
dangerous later, said Kim Eun-jin, secretary-general of the Korea Anti-GMO
Network, a civic coalition.

As time passes, most artificially-made products from new technologies pose
problems to the human body and the eco-system, and since GMOs are living
organisms, the range of damage can be catastrophic, she warned.

''As long as a risk remains, GMO products must not be used, she stressed.
Kim also took issue with the current evaluation method, saying the
government does not conduct separate inspections of the GMO products and
only assesses the data sent from overseas.

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