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Regulating GM food imports

29/09/2005 | Down To Earth

sri lanka's business community, which forced the government to suspend a ban on the import of genetically modified (gm) food in 2001, is now supporting regulation of gm food imports. In May 2001, the country's health ministry had announced a ban on the import of gm food, covering 21 types of food. But it was suspended and environmentalists blamed pressure from the World Trade Organisation, Australia, New Zealand and the us government. Now, the new regulations for the import, sale and labelling of gm food are likely to come into force later this year.

But the business community has struck a note of caution: "The laws should be drafted in a way that allows consumers to make an informed choice...not scare them off. We are not opposed to regulations as long as they are reasonable and practical,' said Delano Dias, member of gm Food Interest Group of Ceylon Chamber of Commerce at a September 2, 2005, discussion on the issue. The new regulations will require approval from the Chief Food Authority (cfa) for the import and sale of gm organism as food for human consumption, food containing or consisting of gm organism and food produced from or containing ingredients produced from gm organism. An approved product would be appropriately labelled with words including "genetically modified'. The cfa can also withdraw the product after sale if new information reveals it is harmful for humans.

Meanwhile, the government faces another hurdle. The Appeal Court recently served notices to the Consumer Affairs Authority and the ministers of consumer affairs and healthcare and nutrition on a petition against gm food filed by the executive director of environment group Centre for Environmental Justice.

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