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Buyers want liability clause, Activists vow fight
Korean Biotech Jitters

(9 June - Cropchoice News) -- Despite a flurry of recent activity, South Korea's position on imports of biotech crops remains unclear. It's an important issue for American farmers because South Korea is a major market. In 1999, Korea was the world's #2 buyer of US corn (about 13% of exports) and #8 buyer of US soybeans (3.8% ). Here's a roundup of recent reports:

Mandatory labeling of food products, including biotech corn and soybeans, will take effect in March 2001. Earlier this week, the Korean Food and Drug Administration decided that Roundup Ready beans posed no significant human health threats, clearing their way for labeled food use. The decision came a little late - officials say about 25% beans used in the country are already biotech.

The soybean decision, however, does not seem to have had spillover into corn markets. Today, Pro Farmer Editors report that "expert sources" say the Korean National Livestock Cooperative Federation and Korean Feed Association have placed liability clauses on their offers to buy US corn. That is, if the shipments are rejected on arrival in Korea because of the presence of "banned substances", then the seller will have to pay for the shipments to be returned and replaced. The Pro Farmers report does not specify GMOs as the cause of Korean concern; but there seem to be few other possibilities.

Meanwhile the Korean Federation for Environmental Movement (KFEM), a 71,000 member umbrella organization, says that "We are going to watch thoroughly all steps of GMO-processed food from where the ingredients come from, to how they are processed when the government starts GMO labelling," The group plans to promote a boycott of biotech foods and is pressuring Korean subsidiaries of McDonald's and Nestle to go biotech-free.

SOURCE: Reuters, Pro Farmer Editors