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Taiwan: Proposed Amendment to School Health Act Would Ban Use of GM Foods

(Dec. 10, 2015) It was reported on December 1, 2015, that the Legislative Yuan (the primary parliamentary body of the Republic of China (on Taiwan)) is currently reviewing an amendment to Taiwan’s School Health Act that would ban genetically modified (GM) ingredients and processed foods containing them from educational institutions throughout the country.  (GM Food Ban in Schools Passes First Legislative Review, TAIWAN TODAY (Dec. 1, 2015); School Health Act (Feb. 6, 2002, as last amended Dec. 18, 2013), Ministry of Education website (toggle to view Chinese text).)  The substances to be targeted include “generic GM soybeans and derivatives such as bean curd, soy milk and tofu.”  (GM Food Ban in Schools Passes First Legislative Review, supra.)

The draft amendment also specifies that:

  • all restaurants in Taiwan, as of December 31, 2015, must introduce labels or notices indicating to patrons whether they use genetically altered or engineered food ingredients, a rule that, “coupled with the establishment of a nationwide registry system for foods served on campuses, is expected to help boost preparations to turn local schools into GM food-free environments” (id.);
  • competent authorities must conduct annual reviews on campuses of food hygiene and safety, in order to maintain “the highest standards for food handling, preparation and serving in schools” (id.); and
  • food service committees, comprising school staff members and parent representatives, should be established in all primary and secondary level educational institutions “to further advance health and nutrition among Taiwan students.” (Id.)

Minister of Education Wu Se-hwa, commenting on the proposed revision of the Act, indicated that his Ministry and the Ministry of Health and Welfare would join together in planning ahead to meet the new requirements, if the amendment is adopted.  He stated, “[w]hile encouraging the use of locally grown farm produce approved by the government, the MOE has advised schools to be prudent in choosing GM foods for school lunches.  We believe the bill would further the ministry’s efforts to safeguard students’ health and bolster our campaign for better food education.”  (Id.)

The amendment has passed the first reading in the Legislative Yuan but must pass two more readings in order to become law.  (Id.)