The Ministry of Health is drafting a decree that aims to better regulate organisms.

The move comes after a recent survey conducted by the HCM City Department of Science and Technology found that more than 34 percent of 323 samples of vegetables collected at 17 supermarkets and markets were genetically modified.

The proposed decree would regulate genetically modified (GM) products by requiring the ministry to grant a licence for a GM product before it can be sold in Vietnam.

GM products would only receive licences if they are shown to have already been commercialised with their safety proven in at least five countries.

Imported GM products for food processing would require certificates of free sale and certificates on food hygiene and safety from their country of origin.

The draft decree also requested that GM food must bear clear labels stating that it is genetically modified, along with the usual expiry dates for perishable products.

Enterprises and household businesses would be required to strictly follow regulations on manufacturing, trading, transporting and storing of GM foods and products, and these regulations would be completed soon by the ministry.

The ministry has also worked with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to establish a management board to oversee GM products and carry out risk assessments on GM products' threat to people's health.

The draft decree would be put forth for public feedback in the future.

Nguyen Quoc Binh, deputy director of the HCM City Biotechnology Centre, said that no studies had shown that genetically modified food harmed people's health.

"Vietnam has imported genetically modified food during the past few years and the nation has not banned the import of such products," Binh said, adding that GM imports have yet to be regulated so enterprises can distinguish them from non-GM products.

Binh said the nation should discuss and research options on labelling of GM products to best support consumers.

He said labelling was not a simple issue, as the ministry had to define elements permissible in a GM product. Some countries in the EU regulated labelling of foods that are more than 5 percent genetically modified, but then changed the threshold to 1 percent.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has licensed four scientific agencies and one company to engage in GM tests on better strains of cotton and corn crops./.