Modified situations

The Philippines introduces stringent laws for GM products; six European countries in the dock for lax GMO laws

Published: Saturday 15 September 2001

the Philippines has recently passed a stringent law for labelling of products containing genetically modified organisms (gmos). In contrast, six European countries face trial for failing to protect their environment from the gmo threat. As per the new Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act of the Philippines, infringement can lead upto 12 years in jail plus a us $2,000 fine. "The bill would give more meaning to the rights of the citizens, who have little knowledge regarding gmos and their possible health affects," said Del de Guzman, Congressperson from the city of Marikina. The bill is being severely criticised by the food manufacturers and importers who apprehend that it would badly affect their sales. "Undoubtedly it would result in a sharp decline of our trade as consumers hesitate to buy products when they start questioning them," said an official of Purefoods, one of the top five food makers of the country. In 2000, tests conducted by the international pressure group Greenpeace had shown that 11 popular food products of the country were contaminated by gmo s. Therefore, experts opine that the new law would provide much-needed protection to the consumers.

Meanwhile, the European Commission has decided to file a lawsuit against Belgium, Germany, the uk , Greece, Spain and Austria in the European Court of Justice, as they have failed to introduce national legislations that would implement an amendment to a European Union (eu) law on the use of gmos. The organisms include viruses and bacteria that could contaminate the environment and affect human health if they escape. The law requires that the laboratory use of gmos should be done in such a manner that their possible harmful effects on human health and the environment are limited. This involves classification of gmos in relation to the risks they present and applying appropriate physical, biological and chemical containment measures. Such measures may also include use of sealed laboratories or containers. This law was amended in 1998. The amendment aimed at updating the legislation in accordance with the current international practices by incorporating modern standards. It included expanding guidelines on the containment measures and introducing more flexibility to allow for easier adaptation in response to future technical progress. The six countries should have adopted the amendment by June 5, 2000, but they failed to do so.

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