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[BEIJING] Chinese consumers would like more information about whether the food they buy contains genetically modified (GM) ingredients, and more would prefer to buy non-GM food than GM food if given a choice.

These are the recently released results of an opinion poll of attitudes to GM food in China, commissioned by Greenpeace and carried out in February this year by Research International.

Eighty seven per cent of 600 people interviewed in the cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou agreed with the suggestion that GM products should be labelled. More than two-thirds said that they would lose confidence in a brand if its products were found to contain GM ingredients.

Forty per cent said they would have increased confidence in brands that committed themselves to a non-GM policy.

"Chinese consumers are sending a clear signal to the food industry that they demand the right to choose, and food companies risk losing significant market and consumer confidence if they place their bets on GM," says Sze Pang Cheung, Greenpeace GM campaign manager.

"Conventional soya has been consumed in China for 5,000 years. Our commonsense should tell us which is safer."

But Jia Shirong, a leading Chinese scientist responsible for testing the safety of GM crops, told SciDev.Net that there is no evidence to suggest that GM crops cause environmental damage or harm human health.

China is the world's biggest importer of GM soya after the European Union. Last year, it imported more than 20 million tons of soya worth US$4.8 billion, a rise of 80 per cent over the previous year. More than 90 per cent of these imported soybeans contained GM varieties.

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