GENET archive


REGULATION: Plan to bring genetically modified food under law in Qatar

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SOURCE: Gulf Times, Qatar

AUTHOR: Arvind Nair


DATE:   30.07.2007

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QATAR is planning to promulgate a law on food products with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in order to make the public aware of their existence. As a first step, the country has joined the Biosafety Protocol of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The next phase will be the setting up of a committee with representatives from various ministries and establishments, Ghanem Abdulla Mohamed, director of Wildlife Conservation at the Supreme Council for Environment and Natural Reserves (SCENR), told Gulf Times.

The committee will formulate a strategy and action plan to regulate the import and use of GM foods ”to protect our country and community from their bad effects”, the official said.?Ghanem pointed out that there was a great debate going on in many countries of the world about the merits and demerits of food products with genetically modified organisms (GMOs). ”The US and several developed countries do not sell such products in their own markets but export them to developing countries of Africa and Asia”, he alleged.?”Sometimes, such food is given away as aid to developing countries”. ?No one knew for sure what would be the effects of using such foods, he said. It could take a long time, may be 20 or 40 years, before one knew how such foods could impact human lives, the official said. ”It is an emerging science”.?Ghanem said Qatar was not planning to ban the import of GM foods. But the public had the right to know if the product they were buying contained GMOs. ”So, all food products with GMOs should be labelled accordingly.”?Quoting the environment group Greenpeace, the official said GM food products were available in the Qatari market. They mainly consisted of maize products and chips. ”People consume them without knowing what they contain”.?After a recent tour of Qatar, the UAE and Kuwait, the Greenpeace had said that it found traces of contamination sold in some corn products sold in major supermarkets in these countries. ?Greenpeace released test results, which revealed traces of GMOs in various maize-based food products imported from the US to Qatar and other countries in the Middle East. ?Consumers in the Middle East were likely to be eating GMO food, not tested for long-term health impacts, without knowing it, the association said. The international organisation has called for a ban on GMOs, or at least, for consumers to be given the right to choose by having GMO products labelled. ?”Since labelling has been enforced in the EU, food companies have banned GMO ingredients from their products because European consumers refuse to buy GMO food. Unfortunately, GMO products opposed in Europe find their way to markets where consumers are either not aware or not told about the GMO content, in this case, the Middle East”, a Greenpeace campaigner said. ?In December 2006, Greenpeace commissioned the testing of 35 products containing maize currently sold in supermarkets in Qatar, UAE and Kuwait.?Some 40% (14 of 35) of the tested samples revealed contamination with GMOs. All product testing was carried out by an accredited laboratory in Berne, Switzerland. In Qatar specifically, four out of 10 products tested contained GMOs. As is the case in other GCC countries, none of the products that contained GMOs was labelled, as these countries do not require labelling of such products. ?In early 2006, Greenpeace discovered that US imported rice products in Gulf countries and in more than 24 other countries all over the world, were contaminated with an unauthorised GMO rice variety. ?Greenpeace has called upon food retailers and relevant authorities in Qatar to ban GMOs from shelves or at least give consumers the right to choose by labelling GMO products, as is required in more and more countries around the world.?When the new law was enforced, it would become mandatory to label GM foods, Ghanem said.



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