Protecting Bhutan against genetically modified food

The next time you import food items from abroad, especially seeds, livestock or even processed food, then check again to see if it is genetically modified (GM) or not.
Otherwise, under the ‘Bio-Safety Bill of Bhutan 2014’, your products are likely to be seized at some BAFRA checkpoint and you may have some explaining to do, along with a fine. In some cases, you could also be held accountable and made to pay for any harm caused. The bill will be introduced for the first and second reading on January 27, 2014.
The law comes in as part of the ongoing international debate on GM food where there is an increasing introduction of GM food particularly cereals, vegetables and fruits with the leading country being the United States of America.
GM food is where the DNA of the food item is changed to give certain properties like making it pest resistant, etc.
Though the science is still not conclusive, there have been several concerns on the health and environmental risks of GM food. The main concern over GM food is that once it is introduced into the environment it cannot be taken back.
Bhutan’s bill that will be implemented by BAFRA specifically forbids the import of import, transit, use, introduction and research into any genetically modified organism capable of reproducing.
The bill recognizes that Bhutan has a precautionary policy concerning genetically modified organisms and is mindful that such a policy was adopted to protect the rich domestic and wild biodiversity of Bhutan, promote the nation’s food security and safeguard the animal and human health. Bhutan is also a party to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.
The Bill stipulates labeling requirements of all approved commercial products derived from GM organisms.
It also says that GM organisms and products shall be subjected to risk analysis for introduction into the Kingdom.
Permission will be required from BAFRA for import, export, re-export and carrying out any activity that involves products derived from GM organisms.
Products derived from genetically modified organisms shall be imported or exported only through the officially designated points of entry and exit as prescribed in the rules and regulations.
The bill, shall not apply to traditional and domestic methods of animal and plant breeding or  pharmaceuticals for human and veterinary use.
The Act will establish a National Biosafety Commission, to oversee implementation consisting of the Agriculture Minister and heads of various Ministry of Agriculture departments and also heads of the Departments of Trade, Industry and Public Health Department and the Law and Order Bureau Director.
Any person who intentionally or negligently commits any act or is responsible for an omission involving GM organisms or products derived from GM organisms which causes damage to human or animal health and the environment shall be liable for the costs of restoration and remediation.
The Act outlines that an inspector who wrongfully and without good cause seizes any property, detains any person, discloses the entrusted official information without authorization, or in any way violates the basic civil rights of individuals, is punishable in accordance with the Bhutan Civil Service Rules and shall not preclude liability under the Penal Code of Bhutan.
However, it also says that an inspector authorized by the authority shall not be jointly or severally liable in respect of anything done in good faith.

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