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Taiwan Bans GMOs in Schools, Mandates Strict Label Laws

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Another country is taking action on genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Taiwan has banned schools across the nation from serving GMOs to students, citing health and safety concerns.

On Dec. 14, 2015, Taiwanese legislature passed amendments to the School Health Act to stamp out raw genetically modified ingredients as well as processed food containing GMOs.

The ban affects cafeterias and food stands in every elementary school, middle school and high school in Taiwan, The China Post reported. Schools have traditionally served food products such as soybeans, corn, salmon, tofu and soy milk that contain GMOs.

"Soy is a major ingredient in Taiwan's school lunches," said Lin Shu-fen of the Democratic Progressive Party, who advocated for the passage of the bill. "Genetically modified soy has been shown to contains toxic residue from pesticides."

It's not just schoolchildren eating tons of GMO soy. Taiwan, as a whole, is a large consumer of the crop. According to Agri-View, "Taiwan consumes more than 8 million bushels of soybeans used in soy foods. Ninety-five percent of those 8 million bushels originate in the U.S., and 7.2 million bushels of those soybeans are GMO soybeans from the U.S."

Lin also said that most genetically modified crops are grown using chemical herbicides and stored and shipped through a procedure fit for animal feed, according to Focus Taiwan.

Lin also argued that if such crops were used in meals for schoolchildren, it would have a huge impact on their physical and psychological health.

Education Minister Wu Se-hwa reportedly said that the Taiwanese government is very concerned about students' health and encouraged schools to prioritize locally grown farm produce and food ingredients instead.

The Ministry of Education indicted that the new GMO ban will start next semester at the earliest and result in a price hike of around NT$5 per meal (about US$0.15), the China Post reported.

As a result, the Ministry of Education’s budget for subsidizing school meals for 262,000 financially disadvantaged elementary and junior school students will increase by NT$235.8 million (US$7.17 million) a year, a Ministry official said.

Taiwan is known for being notoriously skeptical of GMOs. About a year ago, the country passed their Food Act Amendments that placed major regulations on bioengineered food products being sold in the country, such as the mandatory labeling of foods containing GMOs.

Here are six main points of the decree as described by Natural News:

1. Requiring the mandatory labeling of GMOs on all food products that contain 3 percent or more GMOs. Foods that use no GMOs may be labeled “non-GMO” ... and many already are, causing their sales to skyrocket across Taiwan. Just last year, imports of non-GMO soybeans to Taiwan grew nearly 300 percent to 58,000 tons.

2. Limiting the use of food additives to just 799 compounds approved by the Taiwan FDA [Food and Drug Administration]. The FDA of the United States, by comparison, allows tens of thousands of chemicals to be used as additives, even when they are well known to cause cancer.

3. All GMO ingredients are required to be registered with the Taiwan government, and food manufacturers that use GMOs are required to establish an origins tracking system to identify where those GMOs originated.

4. All the soy milk, tofu, miso and other soy-derived products sold everywhere across the country—including at cafes and street food vendors—must be clearly labeled as GMOs if they use genetically modified soy.

5. Food products made using genetically modified soy as a processing agent or blended ingredient must also label their final food products as GMO, even if the soybean oil is not, itself, the final product.

6. Fines for violating these food safety provisions have been set at NT$50 million (about US$1.5 million).

Last November, Taiwan banned the import of GMO salmon from the U.S. shortly after it was approved by the U.S. FDA.

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