Laws in place in Jan but no GM food in the market
Genetically Modified (GM) food is not currently available in the local market even though current laws allow it to be sold on the condition that it receives prior approval and the product has labelling informing the public that it contains GM food.
The government through a gazette notification announced in January that GM food cannot be brought into the country without obtaining prior approval and if any GM food is to be released to the market, it has to contain a label claiming that they have GM components in it. The penalty for non-compliance would be a Rs 10,000 fine, six month imprisonment, or both.
Dr. C. K. Shanmugarajah, Director of the Food Control Administration (FCA) of the Ministry of Health told The Sunday Times FT said although the laws are in place so far no requests to import GM food have been made to the FCA.
He said any organization that wishes to import GM food to the country should make a request to the FCA who will then run tests on the product and approve or disapprove on a case by case basis. After obtaining approval, the law requires the food to contain labelling informing the consumer that it contains GM food. “This is to enable the consumer to make an informed decision,” Dr. Shanmugarajah said.
All importers are given a declaration form to ensure that their imports contain no GM components to the best of their knowledge.
Dr. Shanmugarajah explained that the problem with GM food is that no one has proved that it is harmless on a long term basis and also that sometimes animal genes can be transplanted into the plants and thereby cause socio-cultural issues. He also said that a 0.5% contamination is allowed adding that it is the globally allowed percentage.
A spokesman for a private company which imports products that may include GM organisms, said that the regulations are a prima facie ban as the procedure for obtaining approval is long and tedious, discouraging anyone who might want to import any GM food. “For someone who wants to bring in about 300 – 400 boxes, there is no point in going through all that hassle to obtain approval,” he raid.