Kraft Foods, the US snack and dairy firm, has agreed to remove all genetically modified ingredients from its products in China, in a sign anti-GM attitudes are on the increase.
Kraft said in a letter to Greenpeace China that: "As of 1 January 2007, for products sold by Kraft Foods in the People's Republic of China, Kraft will only use non-GM crop-derived ingredients, including additives and flavours."
Several other multinational firms, including PepsiCo, Coca-Cola and Danone, already have a non-GM policy in China.
And Kraft's move came as several Chinese newspapers criticised Nestlé, the world's number one food firm, for not adopting a non-GM stance in China.
The group does not use GM ingredients for its products sold in the European Union or Russia, largely because of consumer opposition.
Yet, Greenpeace said this opposition was now building in China too.
It said the latest IPSOS survey conducted in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou in December 2004 showed that 57 per cent of Chinese consumers would choose non-GM food, while only 16 per cent of the respondents expressed willingness to try GM food.
The group said 107 food brands had begun a non-GM policy in China up to October 2005.
Steven Ma, Greenpeace China anti-genetic engineering campaigner, said Kraft's decision sent a strong signal to others: "The growing concerns of the Chinese consumers have started to reshape the GE ingredient policy of top food companies."
However, a report by Agricultural Biotechnology Europe in September last year said Europe's anti-GM was unsustainable in the long-term.
It said opposition to GM ingredients would significantly increase producers' costs over the next three years as it becomes harder to secure GM-free supplies.
A major problem is the declining global supply of non-GM ingredients in the key soybean and derivative sector, notably now Brazil has begun planting GM soybeans. GM soybeans accounted for 23 per cent of total production in Brazil in 2004.