ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

26 February 2002


Dear friends,

The Environmental Foundation Sri Lanka/FoE has began a new round of lobbying the government of Sri Lanka (directed at the New Minister of Health) to reimpose the interim ban on GMO. Please write a letter and send or fax it to the following:

Hon. P. Dayaratne,
Minister of Health,
Ministry of Health,
385, Baddegama Wimalawansa Mawatha,
Colombo 10.

Fax: 0094-01-694227

Please cc a soft copy to:


Yeoh J. K.
GE Campaign Research Officer


Date: Thu, 21 Feb 2002 11:26:13 +0000
Subject: Re: Letter to New Minister on Sri Lanka GMO Issue.

Dear GMO campaigners,

This is our latest latter to New health Minister of Sri Lanka. Can you all write to the Minister and request to reinstate the regulation on GMOs.


19th February2002

Hon. P. Dayaratne,
Minister of Health,
Ministry of Health,
385, Baddegama Wimalawansa Mawatha,
Colombo 10.

Dear Sir,

Need To Re-Impose Interim Ban On Genetically Modified Foods

We trust that you would have received our letter of congratulation and good wishes on your appointment as the Minister of health. We are a public interest group in the nature of a non-governmental organisation working for the conservation of the environment through legal means.

We supported the regulations on Genetically Modified Foods, gazetted by the last government, which have subsequently been suspended for undisclosed reasons. These regulations under the Food Act banning the import or commercial manufacture of foods that have genetically been modified (using DNA recombinant technology) have been indefinitely suspended, as has the parallel requirement that certain types of imported food should carry a certificate from a competent authority from the country of origin certifying that the food has not been genetically modified.

We are also informed that this ban recommended by the Food Advisory Committee (a statutory body established to tender advice on these matters) will now be subjected to review by an ad hoc committee having no statutory legitimacy.

We would respectfully point out that the suspension of the above mentioned Regulation is unjustifiable, both on scientific and legal grounds as set out below, especially since the original Regulation which was due to come into force on May 1st of 2001 was already suspended for 4 months until September 1st to accord with WTO requirements.

Scientific and Ethical Objections

1. The consequences of genetic modification on human health, environment and agriculture have not yet been fully explored, and scientists from different parts of the world are continuously discovering unexpected hazards. An example was the recent discovery by Belgian scientists of an unidentifiable strain of DNA in the soyabean product of an American company.

2. Contrary to its supporters' views, genetic modification using DNA recombinant technology is not an extension of natural breeding processes as it allows for the transfer of genes between species such as animal and vegetable or even human and animal, an occurrence that will never happen in the course of nature.

3. Vegetarians or persons under religious or cultural prohibitions not to eat a certain substance may find they have unknowingly violated these values due to the introduction of foreign genetic material into foods they thought were harmless.

4. Although genetic modification may be intended for some purpose extraneous to human consumption, as in the introduction of foreign genetic material into food crops to make them pest-resistant, the genetic mutations that result may have unforeseen effects on human consumers as well as indigenous agriculture and the environment. The decision of the European Union to ban bt-corn is in recognition of this factor.

5. GM foods have been known to cause allergies, sometimes fatal, through products from which an allergic reaction would not normally be anticipated. An example was the Tryptophan scandal that killed 37 people and seriously affected another 1500. As such, they could inherently be dangerous to health.

6. Widespread use of antibiotic resistant marker genes could contribute to the build-up of antibiotic resistance.

Legal Objections

1. The pressure to do away with the ban as it appears, has been imposed on Sri Lanka by certain developed countries whose commercial interests were affected. This is wholly unjustified because these countries have a strict regulatory system governing the production and marketing of GM foods. An example was the recent U.S. Federal Government investigation into Star Link corn, which reportedly caused the Environmental Protection Agency to reject the corn as human food, on the ground that tests conducted did not eliminate the risk of allergies.

2. The suggestion that Sri Lanka would be in breach of WTO regulations is not credible because several WTO officials who were in Sri Lanka recently to hold workshops on the safety of GMFs and WTO regulations had not spoken against the ban.

3. The Codex Alimentarius Commission at its 24th commission approved the first global principles on the safety of GMFs, notably that the safety of food derived from genetically modified organisms should be tested and approved by government prior to reaching the market.

4. Article 5(7) of the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement of the W.T.O. itself states "In cases where relevant scientific evidence is insufficient, a Member may provisionally adopt sanitary or phytosanitary measures on the basis of available pertinent information, including that from the relevant international organizations as well as from sanitary or phytosanitary measures applied by other Members. In such circumstances, Members shall seek to obtain the additional information necessary for a more objective assessment of risk and review the sanitary or phytosanitary measure accordingly within a reasonable period of time."

5. This is in harmony with the precautionary principle set out in the Rio Declaration, which states that lack of scientific certainty shall not by used as a reason for postponing preventive measures.

6. It is understood that the FAC had taken the measure to impose the ban only till such time as an internationally recognized regulatory procedure relating to GM foods can be introduced. The need for regulation was recognized even by Sri Lanka's own Chamber of Commerce, which called for restrictive labeling, which is a measure in use in the European Union.

In all these circumstances we call upon you to re-activate the interim ban recommended by the FAC that should have come into force on 1st September 2001. EFL is in possession of considerable scientific and legal material on this issue and would be happy to assist your Ministry to formulate a more permanent regulatory system.

Yours sincerely,
Ravi Algama

People's Caravan 2000
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