While the government mulls whether to make GM labels mandatory, Channel NewsAsia
has reported that increasing numbers of Hong Kong consumers are turning organic
in their food choices. Angus Lam, chairman of the Hong Kong Organic Farming
Association, believes this trend is representative of the consumer need
for guarantees of safety in food products, and while organic certification guidelines
are still not finalised: "It depends on the confidence of consumers."
Organic farms are increasing in number, but many local producers believe that
the labour intensive organic system may not catch on. One producer, Pui-kwan
Chu, commented: "Bak choy, choy sum, kale, they all belong to the same
family and they attract the same pests. A lot of the time when we grow them,
we end up with the stem because the leaves [are] eaten by pests and we lose
a lot of crops… Unfortunately they turn out to be the most demanded vegetables
in Hong Kong."
If the Hong Kong government approves a labelling law for all pre-packaged products
with GM content above 5%, it could still be two years before they become effective.
Critics maintain that it would be better to speed up the process with the introduction
of a voluntary labelling system.
The major Hong Kong retail chain, Wellcome Supermarket, said that it favour
an industry wide approach to labelling, to give consumers an informed choice
about food products.
Others say that because there is no scientific evidence to prove that GM foods
are unsafe, proposed guidelines should be stricter. Connie Lau, head of research
and survey division of the Consumer Council, said: "The threshold
limits should be tightened down to 1% like those in European countries. But
we understand the industry needs time, also the lab needs time for the testing
of products. We think that the government should start with 5% but eventually
should have the ultimate goal to tighten up this level."