Regulators not ready to deal with GM tech: BFSA

Staff Correspondent | Published at 02:19am on February 26, 2020

Regulators in Bangladesh are not ready to deal with the technology of genetic modification as the country wishes to rely more on it to ensure food security, speakers said at a workshop on Tuesday.

The workshop was jointly organised by Bangladesh Food Safety Authority and South Asia Biosafety Program at Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies.

‘We welcome technology but we need to be careful before we apply it commercially,’ said BFSA member Monzur Morshed Ahmed as he presented the keynote paper at the workshop.

He said that testing toxicity and allergenicity of genetically modified food is very important but food regulators in Bangladesh hardly had the capacity to run the test.

The food regulators, including Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution, are also not capable of verifying information and data provided by GM food developers in support of the safety of their products, said Monzur Morshed.

He identified it a shortcoming of the existing laws as there is no authority to certify whether or not a GM food is safe to eat.

The existing law makes it mandatory to get approval from the Department of Environment only for releasing a GM crop.

But the problem arises when the crop is consumed as food, he said.

Monzur said that lack of labelling was a major problem as neither the environment department nor BFSA nor BSTI had the capacity to monitor if the mandatory provision was implemented in the field.

He said that the genetically modified brinjal were being sold in the country without being labelled.

The bio safety rules of the environment department make it mandatory for marketing GM foods.

The BFSA act makes it mandatory to declare on label a food’s attributes only when the food comes in packets.

‘Who is responsible for looking after GM foods sold in bulk?’ wondered Monzur.

The workshop was also attended by BFSA acting chairman Mahbub Kabir, its member Rejaul Karim, USA based ILSI research foundation deputy executive director Andrew F Roberts and Biotech Consortium India Limited chief general manager Vibha Ahuja.