The Network for a Transgenic-Free Chile is demanding the implementation of a Ministry of Health regulation mandating information labels on all products containing any GM ingredient Transgenic products - known disparagingly as "Frankenfood" by anti-transgenic activists in the US - include any organism whose genetic code has been modified, usually by replacing one or more genes with those of another species.

Currently more than 80 genetically altered products are sold in Chile, including cooking oils, margarine, tortillas, jerky, sausage, cookies, popcorn, chocolate, and various prepared foods.

A group of anti-transgenic activists including network coordinator Maria Isabel Manzur, director of the Institute of Ecological Policy (IEP)Fabiola Farina, president of the National Users and Consumers Corporation (Conadecu) Isabel Lincolao and director of the National Ecological Action Network (Renace) Fabiola Liberona, blamed the delay in enacting the law on pressure from economic groups, although they declined to name names.

Ministry of Health Bill No. 293 clearly establishes the obligation of food producers to indicate any ingredients that have been genetically altered. The bill, which modifies 1996 Bill 977, was approved on April 26 of this year.

Specifically, the text of the bill states that "transgenic foods or foods which contain any transgenic ingredient or additive must be highlighted in the list of ingredients and followed by an asterisk. At the end of the list a highlighted label next to an asterisk must read 'Transgenic or Genetically Modified Organism'.

" The bill also addresses products that contain less than one percent of transgenic material. Any transgenic products which are sold in bulk or not individually packaged must also indicate the genetic modification, either on the product container or in the store where the product is sold.

The bill has already been signed by Health Minister Michelle Bachelet and President Ricardo Lagos, and will govern food labeling practices for 365 days following its publication.

The directors of the Network for a Transgenic-Free Chile claim that the delay in publication demonstrates that the government would rather protect the pockets of big business than the health of its citizens.

They added that they felt that they had been deceived during an Aug. 17 meeting in which Health Undersecretary Ernesto Benkhe pledged to publish the bill in the course of the month, an event which did not come to pass.