The parliament has passed the Bio-safety Bill by a vote of 66 to zero with one abstain on 12th May. The bill, which bans trade, transit, research and development (R&D) and introduction of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the country, was submitted by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forest (MoAF).
The Chairman of a joint committee for the bill, Ritu Raj Chhetri, pointed out introducing GMOs to Bhutan would have overwhelming impact on human health and the environment. “We don’t want our people to be a guinea pig. We need to ensure products that are safe for the human consumption and not detrimental to the environment are only allowed”. Previously the committee informed that the 12 member from both the houses convened three meetings and drew recommendations on only two clauses which were not agreed upon.
The bill is obligated under the Cartagena Protocol that came out of the convention on biological diversity, which was adopted after the Rio Earth Summit, according to the chairman. “This is an international commitment and should be supported rightfully”, he added. Bio-safety is defined as “the avoidance of potential risk to human and animal health and safety to the conversation of the environment, as a result of the use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and products derived from genetically modified organisms” in the bill. Initially it did not cover the animal health.
Ritu Raj Chhetri pointed out that it’s unclear whether GMO products had already entered to the country. “We don’t if GMOs come as packaged food products or in another form. Bhutan doesn’t have proper laboratories to carry out the research, and this bill will help the Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) to set up such laboratories.” He added the government has got enough funding from international organizations to set up laboratories and there isn’t any financial implication on the country.
The agriculture minister, Yeshi Dorji, thanked to the Members of Parliament (MPs) for their support. “As there are more and more scientific experts in the world warning the dangerousness of GMOs this bill will help all the people in our country to ensure good health and the environment not just at present but in future as well.”
As per section 11 of the article 13 of the Constitution, the Bio-safety bill will be submitted to His Majesty the Druk Gyalpo for Royal Assent. The implementing agency for this bill will be Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA).