Please find below, the Press Release from the Environmental Foundation of Sri Lanka. We apologize for the late circulation since Friday August 31st was a public holiday here in Malaysia, commemorating of the 44th year of independence.
We will be circulating any further calls for action by our Sri Lankan partners as soon as they are sent to us.
PAN AP Campaigns and Media Coordinator
Health Ministry Betrays Lankan Citizens on GMF Regulations
Press Release - Thursday, August 31, 2001
The regulations on Genetically Modified (GM) food which were supposed to come to in operation on 1st September 2001 were postponed indefinitely by the Minister of Health on 30th August 2001.
This can only be seen as a move to satisfy the US Ambassador's repeated requests. It is widely believed that it was the Secretary to the Ministry of Health who had convinced the Minister that the ban should be removed.
These Regulations were originally to be implemented from 1st May 2001, but this action was postponed by three months to abide by the conditions of the World Trade Organization. The new date was set as 1st September 2001 according to the Gazette no. 1190/5 of June 26th 2001.
This Regulation were widely criticized by the GM food importers ie. the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce led by Millers Ltd which is the importer of Kraft cheese and many other GM products including a number of Kellogg's products.
The US Embassy and the High Commissions of Australia and the New Zealand backed this pro-GM Foods lobby.
We see this as definite double standards as the New Zealand government has extended their moratorium on GM foods last month and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has rejected genetically engineered corn in July 2001 saying that it has not passed the safety test. Even the UK, Italy, Luxemburg, Germany, India, Philippines, Thailand, Austria, and France have restricted GM food items in one way or another.
We wonder whether the U.S., Australia and New Zealand are still treating developing countries like Sri Lanka as colonies to dump untested GM foods. The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce requested a postponement of the GMF regulations until 2004, which will indirectly allow US, Australia and New Zealand to use the Sri Lankan people as laboratory mice in testing these foods.
The regulations on Genetically Modified Foods was commended by many people around the world. In fact over 200 civil society organizations, including Friends of the Earth and the Pesticide Action Network, wrote to President Bush urging him not to interfere in the actions of the Sri Lankan government which were taken with the state of national health in mind.
According to market surveys done by the Environmental Foundation many possibly GM foods are available in the Sri Lankan foods stores. The gazetted regulation banned 21 items including some soya, corn, tomato, potato and cheese products.
We warn the public that because of this decision, the GM foods, which have lost the market in US, Europe and many other developed countries, will flood the Sri Lankan food markets and food importers will get profits out of those cheap products. Kit Kat is one such GM product which came to the Sri Lankan Market at a cheaper price after it lost its market in Europe
However, the indefinite postponement of the GM regulations is a serious violation of the public trust by the Government. We strongly urge that the Minister and the Secretary who were involved in this betrayal to resign.
We further state that we have no option but, in due course, to release the possibly GM food list to the public allowing individuals to take the decision as to whether they need to take the risk of consuming such foods.
We therefore call upon the public not to eat the GM foods available in the market as a mark of protest against GM food developers, the GM food exporters and the Sri Lanka Health Ministry who don't consider the state of your health as important.
People's Caravan 2000