Genetically modified food found in Vietnam metro

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While Vietnam is yet to issue regulations on genetically modified food (GMF), a Ho Chi Minh City survey has found they are being sold without people being aware of them.

The survey, conducted by QUATEST 3 - the HCMC office of Vietnam's Quality Assurance and Testing Center, showed that more than one-third of 323 samples collected were genetically modified, local newswire VnExpress reported last Monday.

The samples, including raw materials and initially processed products from corn and rice among others, were randomly taken at citywide markets and supermarkets between last March and April.

QUATEST 3 had sent the survey report to HCMC Department of Science and Technology for verification before presenting it to a scientific council VnExpress said, adding the report would serve as reference for policymakers to draft regulations on GMF.

It said recently available GMF in Vietnam was imported "officially" or "unofficially" and were rarely labeled as GMF.

Nguyen Quan, deputy minister of the Ministry of Science and Technology, said the draft of Food Safety Law currently being worked on by the Ministry of Health requires imported food, including GMF, to be certified as safe for human consumption by related agencies in export countries.

The ministry also plans to require labeling of GMF, including specific details about its modified components, Quan was quoted as saying.

The GMF and GMO debates have been raging for long among international scientists.

While some European countries have tightened control of GMO, concerned that they will affect the health of communities, the US government, at the urging of powerful lobbyists, considers it as normal food. Firms are required to label GMO and leaving it up to people.

In Vietnam the government in 2005 allowed the production of GMO for commercial purposes but the lack of instructions has handicapped effective implementation of the policy.

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