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June 24, 2017

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Experts mull lower threshold for GMO ingredients: MHW

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmaker Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) yesterday questioned the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MHW) about lowering the threshold that defines genetically modified raw materials.

According to the MHW, the amendment to the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation was officially carried out this Feb. 5, and the regulation about genetically modified raw materials was included in the act for the first time.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmaker Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) said that in the approved amendment, the central competent authority should announce that the standard that defines genetically modified food is based on the standard published by the European Union.

However, Tien said that after Dr. Jerry Hjelle, the vice president and regulator at Monsanto Company, visited the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), experts revoked the Legislative Yuan's resolution on April 29.

Tien said that the MHW only revised the standard that defines genetically modified food from the current five percent to three percent, which still does not meet the 0.9 percent standard published by the European Union.

"Based on the revision, any food that contains less than three percent of genetically modified ingredients will not be considered a genetically modified food," said Tien.

Wu Chia-cheng (吳家誠), a chemistry professor at National Taiwan Normal University, said that based on research published by at least four scientists, genetically modified foods could let people consume protein that is not suitable for human beings to eat.

Tien said that people have the right to know the products that they consume, so the MHW should clearly label in Chinese any foods that contain over 0.9 percent of genetically modified raw materials.

Yang Yi-chen of the FDA said that the current regulations already state that all genetically modified food should be clearly labeled and all imported genetically modified food have to go through a safety evaluation.

Yang said that the decision to revise the standard that defines genetically modified food was based on discussions among representatives from industry, officials, experts and consumer organizations.

According to Yang, if the threshold for genetically modified food is too strict, many food products that are not genetically modified will not be allowed to be imported to Taiwan, which will affect the food supply in Taiwan.

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