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October 7, 2020

Govt to tighten import regulations to curb GMOs influx

Business

October 7, 2020

LAHORE: The government is all set to restrict imports of genetically modified grains in the country in lights of recommendations to be forwarded by a recently-formed committee, it was learnt on Tuesday.

The government constituted the body to tighten import regulations to restrict influx of grains laced with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into country for food, feed and processing purposes.

The committee has been asked to finalise and submit its report/ recommendations to the National Biosafety Centre within four weeks.

Jawed Salim Qureshi, chairman of the committee said there is dire need for import regulations for GMOs to safeguard interest of domestic consumers, processors, farmers and exporters.

Qureshi dismayed over what he called present poor arrangements for importing grains and other food stuff.

“There is literally no proper check on placing curbs on such imports,” said Qureshi, who heads Pakistan Engineering Council. “We need to assess impact of GM grains not only on human health, but also on agriculture and whole economy. It is very unfortunate that our exports got hurt in past due to presence of GMOs.”

The committee’s chairman said rice exports have been hurt in the past due to tainted GMOs.

“We will prepare our detailed report after assessing all aspects related to GMO grains and formulate recommendations,” he added.

In April 2018, government issued instructions to Department of Plant Protection for strict regulations of inbound and exporting rice consignments. This move was initiated following serious concerns raised by Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan about availability of GM rice in some shipments, resulting in rejection of Pakistani export cargoes from European Union.

Punjab government later expressed reservations over tainted trade of GM rice.

“We do not produce GM rice nor do we import it,” the official said in a letter then. “There is no possibility of any involvement of local companies in the processing of GM rice. If at all it is detected from some consignments, it could have sourced from outside country, which needs to be checked thoroughly.”

As a result of the tight regulation, Pakistan blocked entry of a rice seed shipment last week originating from Far East.

The committee will plug loopholes in import regulations by invoking rules in addition to prepare recommendations for enhancing capacities of related departments. The committee will also work for achieving synergy among the various departments at federal as well as provincial levels.

Last week, Pakistan Environment Protection Agency Director General /Secretary National Biosafety Center constituted sub-committee to formulate policy and procedure to regulate or ban the import of GM grains for food, feed and processing in the country.