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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Warns Japan on Labeling Biotech Foods

TOKYO -- The United States has warned Japan that if Tokyo implements mandatory labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, it could mislead consumers about food safety and disrupt trade.

Isi Siddiqui, special assistant for trade to the U.S. agriculture secretary, expressed concern Tuesday about possible GMO labeling requirements by Japan when he met senior officials of the Agriculture Ministry in Tokyo.

"We do not believe that obligatory GMO labeling is necessary, because it would suggest a health risk where there is none," Siddiqui told reporters after the meeting.

He added: "Mandatory labeling could mislead consumers about the safety of these products and require segregation of GMO and non-GMO foods. I fear major trade disruptions and increases in food costs to consumers if Japan requires mandatory labeling."

A Japanese government advisory panel on GMO labeling rules will make a final decision on voluntary or mandatory labeling by the end of August.

Japanese consumer groups have demanded mandatory labeling of gene-altered foods due to concerns over possible health hazards, while the food industry fears the idea could hurt sales.

Japan is believed to be the world's biggest importer of GMOs as it is heavily dependent on agricultural imports from the United States, the biggest producer of genetically altered crops.