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6-Regulation: Saudi Arabia to establish a 1% threshold for GE food



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TITLE:  Saudi Arabia To Establish a 1% Threshold for GMF
SOURCE: US Department of Agriculture, Foreign Agricultural Service
        GAIN Report #SA1019
        http://www.fas.usda.gov/gainfiles/200111/135682683.pdf
DATE:   November 13, 2001

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GAIN Report
Global Agriculture Information Network
Voluntary Report - public distribution
Date: 11/13/2001
GAIN Report #SA1019
Saudi Arabia

Biotechnology

Saudi Arabia To Establish a 1% Threshold for GMF

2001

Approved by: Quintin Gray U.S. Embassy, Riyadh
Prepared by: Hussein Mousa
Report Highlights: In light of the growing concerns about the Saudi GMF 
labeling requirement, this report seeks to update U.S. suppliers on how 
Saudi foodstuff importers are reacting to the labeling requirement.

Includes PSD changes: No Includes
Trade Matrix: No Unscheduled
Report Riyadh [SA2], SA

Summary: The new Saudi Arabian GMO labeling requirement is set to take 
effect on December 1, 2001. However, ATO/Riyadh has been informed by senior 
officials at the Saudi Ministry of Commerce (MOC) that the Saudi Food 
Safety Committee will soon to set a 1 percent maximum threshold limit for 
defining a biotech foodstuff. Also, importers and representatives from 
supplying countries hope that the MOC would come up with clear cut answers 
whether or not labeling is required for foods sold at fast food restaurants 
and if meat derived from animals that are fed on biotech feed grains is 
considered a biotech product. As reported in our GAIN Report Number SA0021 
of December 18, 2000, the Saudi Ministry of Commerce’s decree number 1666 
requires a positive GMF labeling if a product contains one or more 
genetically modified vegetable (plant) ingredients. A triangle should be 
drawn and in it the text should read "Contains Genetically Modified Product 
(s)." It should be noted that the Ministry will not accept a statement that 
says "This Product May Contain GMO Ingredients."

In light of the growing concerns about the Saudi GMF labeling requirement, 
this report seeks to update U.S. suppliers on how Saudi foodstuff importers 
are reacting to the labeling requirement.

Importers Welcome a one Percent Threshold:

Foodstuff importers have welcomed the MOC’s plan to establish a 1 percent 
maximum threshold limit for defining a biotech foodstuff. The firms say 
that the one percent limit will help products that are unintentionally 
contaminated with GMO elements and will assist American suppliers to 
declare some of their products GMO free.

Large Saudi Firms to Evaluate Consumer Reaction Before Importing GMFs:

Major foodstuff importers, who are importing American foodstuffs either 
under their own brand names or who serve as exclusive agents for well known 
American brands, say that they would not, at least initially, import GMF 
and put this GMO triangle label on their foods. They say that importing GMF 
could jeopardize their product image and result in lost market shares that 
they have developed over several years given that consumers have limited 
knowledge about GMFs. Importers do not expect the MOC to initiate a 
favorable media campaign to give unbiased information on GMF to the public 
since the current MOC position is clearly anti-biotech. It is worth 
mentioning that the Ministry has made it unequivocally clear on several 
occasions that the primary reasons for requiring the GMF labeling are the 
consumers’ right to know and to discourage the Saudi consumers from eating 
biotech foods until the long term effects are known. Traders are waiting to 
see how local newspapers will report when they see the first GMF products 
in supermarkets. Some importers have even been asking their US suppliers to 
put the GMO free symbol on their product labels to match initiatives taken 
by many European suppliers. Shoppers in local supermarkets can now find 
many European foodstuffs with GMF free labels.

Small Quantities of GMF to Be Imported:

Smaller food stuffs importers, who usually import small quantities of 
several foodstuffs in consolidated containers from the US, are likely to 
import products with positive GMO labeling since they can not afford to pay 
premium prices required to source GMO free foodstuffs and/or obtain 
alternative suppliers who can offer comparable quality at competitive 
prices. According to major foodstuff importers, it will cost 30 to 40 
percent more to source none GMF from the US and up to 10 percent to source 
GMO free products from other supplying countries including the EU. As such, 
they are actively seeking alternative GMF free suppliers from other 
countries if comparable qualities can be secured at up to 15 percent price 
premium.

Stocks to Last Until March:

Since products that arrive at the Kingdom’s ports that are cleared before 
December 1 st are not affected by the GMF labeling regulations, large 
importers and major fast food restaurants have been importing and storing 
huge quantities of American foodstuffs to avoid shortages during the 
transitional period. Many firms reported carrying enough stocks to supply 
the market up to March 2002. According to them, the impact of the GMF 
regulation will most likely not to be felt until March 2002. Foodstuffs 
stocked piled by distributors are mostly those with over one year shelf 
life.

Penalties for Not Following the GMF Labeling Regulation:

The Ministry of Commerce has warned importers to fully comply with the GMF 
labeling rules. The MOC has told importers that it would randomly test 
products for compliance. If products defined as GMF free are tested as GMF, 
the importing firm will face fines according to the MOC anti-commercial 
fraud regulations (usually a monetary fine, jail terms or both). Many local 
firms have reportedly told their suppliers in writing that the suppliers 
would take the full financial and legal responsibilities if products 
supplied failed to meet the MOC’s GMF labeling requirements.

END OF REPORT

Following is the summary of the Saudi Minister of Commerce’s Ministerial 
Directive No 1666 issued on 11th of December 2000:

1. Ban on GMO Animal Products: one of the main features of the Ministerial 
Directive No 1666, is the IMMEDIATE AND TOTAL ban placed on the imports of 
foodstuffs containing genetically engineered animal products to the 
Kingdom. The directive did not give reasons for the total ban of animal 
products. However, ATO\ trade sources believe that the decision was taken 
to make sure all imported foodstuffs are Halal and do not contain products 
from swine and other animals banned for consumption by Islamic religion.

2. Rescinded Free GMO labeling: the Ministry of Commerce (MOC) dropped the 
requirement for GMO free labeling for all food and pet foods as stipulated 
in its last August directive. One should remember that the earlier 
directive (now rescinded) called for a circle drawn and in the circle a 
statement printed that reads "Free of Genetically Modified Products."

3. Positive labeling: if a product contains one or more genetically 
modified plant ingredients, the information should be clearly communicated 
to the consumer by labeling. A triangle should be drawn and in it the text 
should read "Contains Genetically Modified Product (s)." It should be noted 
that the Ministry will not accept a statement that says "This Product May 
Contain GMO Ingredients."

4. Bilingual Labeling: The GMO statement must be clearly written in Arabic 
and English languages with an ink different from that of the main product 
tag.

5. Health Certificate: GMO products or genetically engineered products 
which are exported to Saudi Arabia must have been approved in the country 
of origin for human consumption. Each shipment must be accompanied by 
health certificate issued by GMO licensing government agencies (such as the 
FDA) stating that the GMO ingredient (s) used in the foodstuff is approved 
in the country of origin (United States) for human consumption. One 
certificate could be issued that certifies a list of GMO items used in a 
foodstuff.

6. Quality Standard: All genetically modified foods products should be in 
compliance with legal and ethical controls observed in the Kingdom and must 
meet pertinent Saudi Arabian standard specifications.

7. Locally Produced Foodstuffs: The GMO labeling requirements will also 
apply to locally produced agricultural products.

8. Grace Period Extension: The new directive extended the grace period 
(initially due to expire at the end of January 2001) to December 1 st , 
2001 before enforcing the new GMO (one year grace period from the issuance 
of directive based on the Islamic calendar). The ministry believes the new 
deadline will give both local and foreign foodstuff suppliers\producers 
adequate time to comply with the new GMO labeling requirements. The 
extension was granted as a result of repeated requests to MOC officials by 
ATO\Riyadh, high level officials from USDA, USTR, State, and 
representatives of other agricultural product supplying countries. Also, 
the U.S. private sector (the U.S. Grains Council, American Soybean 
Association, and the Groceries Manufacturers of American) efforts to 
educate and mobilize the Saudi private sector to lobby the Ministry of 
Commerce were critical to obtaining the delay. The new labeling deadline 
will allow time for continued dialogue with the Saudi Ministry of Commerce 
on the safety of GMO foodstuffs.

END OF REPORT 



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