New GMO standards for Seoul

On 11 July 2008, the South Korean government announced new and comprehensive monitoring for all food products available within the national borders. By the year 2012, ninety-five per cent of all foods should be subject to testing standards that are as rigorous as those of the European Union. In order to ease the transition to the new system, a total of 120 billion won has been earmarked for thousands of small firms.

Photo: Hofschlaeger/Pixelio
Photo: Hofschlaeger/Pixelio
Shortly before the general announcement, President Lee Myung-bak had indicated a new South Korean approach to food safety. In an address to the National Assembly, he spoke of the issue as “national health security”.

According to President Lee, a “national health organisation” will be established. Constituted of representatives from non-governmental sectors, this organisation will monitor food safety and will answer to the Prime Minister. An institute will be grounded specifically for the management of all food-relevant information, including such topics as genetic modification.

The new safety standards will be similar in strictness to the standards of the EU. Particular attention also will be paid to items of local significance, such as the fermented vegetable dishes known as kimchi as well as other products and ingredients of the regional cuisine.

Potential dangers will be distinguished according to the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) concept, which establishes seven principles for a systematic, preventive approach to food safety. Products that are classified as a ‘risk’ will be liable to constant monitoring with a view to their elimination or their reduction on the market. The labelling of food products will indicate their country of origin and GMO content. A new system has been devised to ensure the traceability of meat.

Food surveillance will be conducted with the aid of approximately forty thousand civilians who, for example, will check for compliance with labelling. Defective market products will be removed from the shelves within 17 days and defective imports will be halted until the source of deficiency can be identified. Intentional tampering with food will be punishable with a minimum of three years in prison or with a fine that is derived as a multiple of the illegal profit.