PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 December, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 December, 1999, 12:00am

I have been engaged in a long drawn-out correspondence with the company Nestle in an effort to get a reply to two simple questions about its bean curd.

I asked whether the beans were genetically modified and what was the 'gelling agent'.

The correspondence has become almost farcical and the company's evasive answers have only served to make me suspicious. The e-mails to and fro now number 16, but the questions have still not been answered.

I was told the beans conformed to Hong Kong laws (which I had hoped we could assume) and that the gelling agent was widely used.

Time after time Nestle evaded the questions.

Is it using genetically modified ingredients and if so, is it ashamed to admit it? Initially I was more interested in the gelling agent it used in its products, however Nestle's response has made me aware of the importance of the genetically-modified food issue.

Prior to this it had not occurred to me that the company itself would not have faith in the safety and value of genetically modified foods and would go to ridiculous lengths to avoid admitting it used such ingredients.

If it is confident of the quality and safety, why hide information from its consumers? Apparently it feels that we are incapable of making an informed decision and further, that no informed person would touch its products if Nestle had decided to use certain ingredients.

Surely that is a decision that it can defend and be open about.

If it feels obliged not to reveal the ingredients and their origins to the consumer, it has no confidence in its own decision to use these products.

Do we not, as consumers, have the right to know what we are putting into our bodies, and make our own decisions, or should we just trust a secretive multinational corporation? What is it that frightens Nestle so much in disclosing this information? Why are companies in Hong Kong not obliged to put this information on packaging? SHEILA McCLELLAND Lamma