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US takes small step toward tightening control of GM foods

China Daily | Updated: 2019-01-07 07:57

Genetically modified corn grains. [Photo/IC]

Editor's note: The US Department of Agriculture stipulates all food containing more than 5 percent of genetically modified components must disclose the GM information in their labels in appropriate ways from Jan 1, 2020. Beijing News comments:

This is the first national mandatory labeling regulation on GM foods introduced by the United States, the birthplace of GM plants-a genetically modified tobacco plant containing an antibody was developed in the US in 1983. Since then GM foods have spread fast in the US, and beyond.

By the end of 2017, GM plants were consumed in 67 countries, among which 24 have given a green light to the planting of GM crops.

About 90 percent of cotton, soybean and corn planted in the US is genetically modified, and nearly 80 percent of processed food in the US market contains GM ingredients.

Proponents of genetic modification claim that GM foods are safe, and there is currently no evidence to prove that they have adverse effects on humans. However, some scientists are opposed to GM foods. They believe that the current research on GM foods is short-term and it is impossible to assess the impact they will have after decades of consumption.

The US government has remained open to GM foods, but the compulsory labeling regulation marks an important step in the control and management of GM foods in the US, if not a change of attitude toward GM foods by the authorities.

Although GM crops have increased the output of grains worldwide, their proponents cannot dispel the wide concern that the current research on GM foods cannot predict their possible impact on human health in the future, as well as the ethical risks of manipulating genes, which cannot be easily ignored.

The US, as the largest exporter and beneficiary of GM foods, seeds and technology, is obliged to take the lead in exploring the setting up of risks and ethics assessment mechanisms for each kind of GM food before it is launched in the market.

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