Cablegate: Cartegena Protocol On Bio Safety

Published: Thu 23 Dec 2004 07:24 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
230724Z Dec 04
E.O 12958: N/A
REF: STATE 259661
1.As a signatory to the Convention on Biological
Diversity and Cartagena Protocol on Bio Safety, Sri
Lanka is developing its own National Bio Safety
Framework for Sri Lanka (NBFSL) in order to comply with
articles of the Protocol. The National Biosafety
Framework Project, under the purview of the Ministry of
Environment and Natural Resources, has compiled a draft
2.The NBFSL recognizes the potential of
biotechnology to develop domestic agriculture and also
addresses concerns of the technology and proposes
measures, which would contain policies and procedures
to ensure the safe application of all biotechnologies,
and any activity associated with GMO's that may
adversely affect the conservation and sustainable use
of biodiversity and biological resources. The Ministry
of Agriculture has also identified biotechnology as a
major thrust area in priority setting and strategic
planning in the National Agriculture Research Policy
for the period 2003-2010.
3.There are no current regulations in place to
restrict or regulate the import of GM foods or products
derived from biotechnology into the country. The
Government of Sri Lanka (GSL) has no plans to impose a
ban on GMO's, although a couple of NGO's are lobbying
for greater restrictions. The Ministry of Health,
which regulates the manufacture, import, sales and
distribution of food products in the country, has
rejected these representations on the basis that Sri
Lanka is bound to ensure adherence to commitments with
international trade agreements, organizations and
4. A report in June 2004 by the subcommittee on legal
aspects that has been appointed by the Ministry of
Health to deal with specific regulations with respect
to GMO's and related issues has proposed
recommendations which include:
- Compulsory labeling of GMO's
- A new law to be enacted to regulate and monitor
applications of modern biotechnologies including all
GMO's, LMO's and products
- Enact draft regulations by the Ministry of Health,
which will require approval of GM foods on a case-by
case system
- The Precautionary Principle to be applied,
particularly in areas of uncertainty
- Regulate and if necessary prevent any animal feed
containing GM materials to be brought into the country
- Incorporate regulations to relevant enactments such
as the Plant Protection Act, Food Act, Consumer Affairs
Authority Act, Control of Pesticides Act and Fisheries
& Aquatic Resources Act to regulate, control and, when
necessary, prohibit the entry of GMO's relevant to the
respective sectors. According to the National Project
Coordinator of the NBFSL, these proposed
recommendations are requirements of the Cartagena
5. Comment: There does not seem to be much direction
to the country's biotech policies and regulations. Sri
Lanka announced a ban on imports of GM products in
2001, only to revoke it without implementation due to
lobbying from the food industry and foreign missions.
A senior GSL official in the agriculture sector has
privately commented that the NBFSL recommendations have
little chance of being implemented due to the lack of
cohesion among key stakeholders and scarcity of
qualified personnel to evaluate the proposals. The
National Project Coordinator of the NBFSL, who will
complete his assignment in February of 2005, also
expressed this view. He feels there is insufficient
expertise or competent personnel to take the Framework
forward. A database containing local resources and
personnel on biotechnology is virtually defunct and the
NBFSL website is no longer being maintained. There is
more concern by the GSL regarding an invasive species
causing harm to the country's biodiversity through
imports of GM plants and planting material than over GM
foods, which are widely imported and consumed in the
country at present. Although a few NGO's and GSL
officials continue to be vocal in their opposition to
biotechnology and GM foods, the GSL is not in a
position to re-impose a ban while maintaining their WTO
commitments. It is unlikely that procedures and laws
to regularize GMO's and products derived from
biotechnology will be introduced in the foreseeable
Post Initiatives
6. Post has recently submitted a request for a biotech
speaker to meet with key stakeholders as well as
educate consumers on GM and biotech foods. Post
sponsored a similar program in 2002 and saw very
positive results. The public has limited information
on biotechnology or it's potential to develop the
agriculture sector and provide cheaper food for the
population. Most local media publicity on
biotechnology focuses on the potential negative aspects
of biotechnology, with little or no coverage given to
its proven advantages. Post has periodically engaged
the host government on this issue since the pivotal
role played by the Embassy in persuading GSL to suspend
the proposed GM ban in 2001. Although the issue of
restricting biotechnology and GMO's continues to
surface in the media, no steps have been taken to
restrict or prohibit the entry of GM products in to Sri
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