Sri Lanka regulates GM food

By Feizal Samath
Published: Thursday 15 February 2007

sri lanka introduced labelling norms in January 2007 to regulate genetically modified (gm) food. This is the second attempt after 2001 to regulate gm food.

Under the new rules, Food (Control of Import, Labelling and Sale of Genetically Modified Foods) Regulations 2006, issued by the health ministry, all gm food or food that includes gm organisms must be labelled. If sellers or importers fail to specify so, they could be fined up to 10,000 Sri Lankan rupees (us $100). The choice of consumption is left to the consumer.

P Madarasinghe, director, food control unit, health ministry, says that food products declared by the importer as 'gm-free' must be certified by the Chief Food Authority (cfa), who is also the country's director-general of health.

Sri Lanka was one of the first countries to ban the import, manufacture and sale of gm food in 2001. The ban was revoked a month later following protests from the us government and Sri Lankan Chambers of Commerce.

Under the ban, the government had issued a list of crops that could potentially contain gm food and importers were required to obtain approval for these. That list includes soya, wheat, tomatoes and potatoes but the current labelling rules has no such list.

To enforce the rules, some government laboratories will be equipped with gm testing facilities. Genetech Molecular Diagnostics, the pioneering genetic laboratory in Sri Lanka, has developed a low-cost test for detecting gm food or gm organisms.

Neil Fernandopulle from Genetech says any product that contains 0.1 per cent or more of gm food or organism must have a label to show this. After certification, the product should carry a gm-free indication on the packaging. He also says that so far, they haven't tested imported food products, but have handled a few export consignments of soya from exporters seeking gm-free certification.

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