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Monday, 23 April, 2001, 11:00 GMT 12:00 UK
Concern over Sri Lanka GM ban
Genetically-modified crop
Fear of European GM foods prompted the ban
By Daniel Lak in Colombo

Food importers in Sri Lanka say they will not be able to comply with a comprehensive ban on all types of genetically modified food.

The ban comes into effect in Sri Lanka at the beginning of May.

It was announced earlier this month, despite concerns from the importers that they will not be able to meet the requirements for scientific testing.

Environmental groups have expressed their support for the restrictions.

Complaints

This blanket ban on genetically modified food is based very much on fears about such items in Europe.

Local consumer and environmental groups have welcomed the restrictions, saying that until such foods are proved to be completely safe, they should be kept out of the country.

But food importers have raised two objections:

  • That there is no definitive proof that GM food is harmful.
  • That proper testing is not available to prove that foods from the list of items in the new legislation contain no GM material.
This includes soya and tomato products, brewers and bakers' yeasts, cheese, sugar made from beets and maize.

All of these are in relatively common use in Sri Lanka and importers say the import restrictions could cause problems for local consumers.

Safety

A spokesman for the National Chamber of Commerce, DJ Abeysekara, said importers had made their concerns known to the government last year.

The leading importer of soy bean products, Soy Foods Lanka Limited, has taken out newspaper advertisements, assuring consumers that everything they sell is free of GM material.

The director general of health services for the government, Dr A Beligaswatte, says the ban will remain in place until worldwide concerns about GM foods are settled.

He says the safety of consumers is paramount, and it is the responsibility of anyone selling any kind of food to make sure that it is not harmful.

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See also:

28 Mar 01 | Scotland
Anger over new GM crop trials
26 Sep 00 | South Asia
Farmers rally against GM crops
18 Jul 99 | Sci/Tech
GM wheat 'could aid Third World'
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