A cluster of groups lobbying for environmental, consumer and community rights, has submitted a joint petition to the Chinese government calling for a comprehensive and mandatory labelling system for genetically modified food.

With no international regulations in place, and different countries adopting very different policies on GM labelling, pressure groups feel they have an important role to play in shaping policy in their country. The Chinese Environmental and Food Bureau is to begin discussing a modified food labelling system today, and will seek public consultation on a range of possible options.

These include mandatory labelling, voluntary labelling or a period of voluntary labelling leading to mandatory labelling at a later date. A further twist comes in the suggestion that, instead of labelling foods with GM content, foods that are free of GM ingredients could be labelled accordingly. If that system were adopted, a fight is likely to ensue over the threshold limit. The Consumer Council chief research and survey officer Brian Cheng-Yuk-nin argued that only products completely free of GM ingredients should be labelled “GM-free,” but industry is likely to call for a higher threshold.

This week’s editorial discusses the FDA’s GM labelling policy in the US – to read it click here.