More than 10 Greenpeace activists chained themselves to the entrance of Nestle factory in Yuen Long in a pre-dawn action yesterday to prevent its products from leaving the compound and getting into the market in order to “halt genetically engineered food contamination” in Hong Kong. Greenpeace decided to “close” Nestle this morning after the company repeatedly broke its promise to phase out GE ingredients in its food products.

In 1999, Greenpeace found two Nestle products – a fresh soya milk and a beancurd dessert both marketed under the brand Pak Fook – to contain GE ingredients, Monsanto’s Roundup Ready-Soya. This year, Pak Fook fresh soya milk has again been found to contain the same GE ingredients in two separate tests while another Nestle product – Pak Fook Hi-calcium Life Soya Milk – also has GE materials.

In a letter to Greenpeace, dated 8 February, 2000, Nestle stated: ” For Nestle in Hong Kong, a majority of our products do not contain GMO ingredients. We are in the process of substituting GMO derived ingredients in any remaining products where possible…” In the same correspondence, it said “…we support a responsible use of gene technology but will refrain from using GMO derived ingredients where consumers are reluctant to accept.”

“Nestle has reneged on its promise to go GE-free and it has also contradicted its own corporate business principles that it will not use GE ingredients if consumers do not want it. In a survey conducted in October 1999, more than 80% of respondents said they would prefer non-GE food if given a choice while 95% demanded a labeling system. People in Hong Kong clearly do not want GE food but are still being forced to accept it. Greenpeace wants this to stop right now,” said Lo Sze Ping of Greenpeace China.

In today’s action, activists were chained to the front gate of the Nestle plant while a vehicle was parked at the back to block the rear entrance in order to blockade the factory to prevent its daily distribution from taking place. A banner which read “No more lies. No more GE food” was displayed at the front entrance. The environmental group also made a satirical modification of Nestle’s internationally recognisable logo by depicting one of the birds with ” a long Pinocchio nose” and “losing its teeth”. Losing teeth, in colloquial Chinese culture, is jokingly interpreted as one of the consequences of lying.

” At present, there is no labeling system in place in Hong Kong and Nestle, which claims to be the world’s largest food company, has been lying through its teeth about a GE phase out. Because nobody is willing to do something constructive to protect public health, Greenpeace has decided to step in to barricade Nestle in order to stop GE food from hitting the market and contaminating Hong Kong, even just for a day,” added Lo.

” Some Nestle baby food products in Thailand are also found to have GE ingredients but Nestle in some countries in Europe have already gone GE free. Nestle is obviously applying double standards in Asia by dumping GE food in this part of the world. This kind of trade practice is despicable, immoral and unethical,” said Lo.

Greenpeace opposes genetic manipulation of food because of its possible danger to the environment and human health. There are concerns that GE foods may trigger new allergic reactions, affect antibiotic treatment, or alter nutritional value.