Japan, Australia and New Zealand all have moved closer to introducing mandatory labeling for GM foods, potentially complicating the World Trade Organization negotiations scheduled for Seattle in November. Such labeling would be breaking WTO rules if the practice were considered to be a non-tariff trade barrier.

Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) last week unveiled draft rules that will require the specific labeling of 28 food items containing genetically modified organisms, effective April 2001. MAFF submitted its proposal to a government committee that is looking at GMO labeling. While the committee is split on the issue, with food industry representatives in opposition; a majority of members is thought to support the call. Members belonging to consumer organizations were hoping for mandatory labeling of all GMO foods.