South Asia

Published: Tuesday 28 February 2006

quake fouls jhelum: Concerns are being raised over truckloads of debris generated by the October 2005 earthquake being dumped daily into the Jhelum river in Pakistan. Environmentalists say the waste contains many chemicals, which are polluting the waters of the river, disturbing its local ecosystem and threatening aquatic life. Since agriculture and livestock depend on the river water, there is a high risk of the pollutants entering the food chain and ultimately exposing people to the toxic chemicals. The dumping of debris would also increase sedimentation of waters behind the Mangla Dam built across the Jhelum.

Regulating gm food products: After five years of haggling over regulations to control the import of genetically modified (gm) food, the Sri Lankan government is now in the final stages of formulating laws that would impose strict labelling rules on such food. The business community has long been demanding reasonable and practical regulations -- through labelling -- to enable consumers to make an 'informed' choice. Health minister Nimal Siripala de Silva has approved the regulations which are now being put into a final shape. The regulations will then be gazetted and become valid. Official say that parliamentary approval would not be required. Under the new rules, any importer seeking to import processed or raw material with gm content must apply to the Chief Food Authority for a permit. If the applicant has an approved certificate from Europe or New Zealand (particularly in the case of milk), then the Lankan authorities would approve it as there are better testing facilities overseas. If not, an expert committee would be set up to examine the application.The tests will be done at Genetech, a US biotech company, which has the facility. But this process will be followed only until such facilities are established in the country. The new regulations are said to be based on the European Union guidelines. When the rules against gm foods were first brought in 2001, the business community screamed foul and with the support of the international community, mainly the us, forced the government to suspend the ban.

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