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Synthesis/Regeneration 27   (Winter 2002)

Sri Lanka

Health Ministry is Quiet as the Controversy
on Genetically Modified Foods Deepens

by Prasanna S. Cooray, General Secretary, Green Party, Sri Lanka

The regulation made by the Ministry of Health, Sri Lanka, banning the sale of Genetically Modified (GM) foods, that was scheduled to come into effect May 1, 2001, and postponed to 1 September 2001, has been deferred indefinitely. We understand that some foreign diplomatic offices and food importers had lobbied strongly for the removal of this new regulation. It is learnt that certain terms and conditions of an agreement of the World Trade Organization (WTO), of which Sri Lanka is a signatory, has been cited as the main reason for the Sri Lankan government to refrain from bringing the new regulation into effect.

If this new regulation had come into effect, it would have not only banned the importation, manufacture, sale or distribution of all genetically modified foods, but also required verification by the producers that they contain no ingredients or materials subject to genetic modification.

However, we feel that the list of food items is grossly inadequate and misleading. For example, there are many brands of cheese and soya products in the market, but all of them may not be genetically modified. Therefore we urge the Ministry of Health to release a list of food items in their brand names. If not, we will be compelled to release a list of GM foods in their brand names, which is made available to us through international sources.

…we will be compelled to release a list of GM foods in their brand names…

With displeasure we note the double standard of the countries that ban sale of such food items yet are forcing the Sri Lankan government against such a move. This we see as yet another example of the monstrous nature of “globalization,” where poor countries are stripped of their independence and right of decision making through agreements which they have been forced into.

The Green Party, Sri Lanka (GPSL), has decided to take this matter up seriously. While making people aware about the possible ill effects of Genetically Modified Foods, the GPSL, will also urge the Ministry of Health to bring in legislation without delay in order to safeguard the health of the people of this country, for which they are responsible. In the meantime with the help of the Green Parties of those countries that oppose the GM food ban in Sri Lanka, we hope to take this matter to their governments, to urge them not to consider Sri Lanka as a dumping site for the “junk” that is banned in first world countries.

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