A legal suit has been filed in the Pakistan’s Lahore High Court by two food rights groups in opposition to the import of genetically modified Soya-bean from USA. The Pakistani government has confirmed that this transgenic variety is safe in terms of its impact on health and the environment, but this statement is contradictory to the scientific evidence in light of which the oil extracted from genetically modified food does contain protein, peptides and other nitrogenous materials, and can really put the environmental level in danger. This is because these materials are not soluble in oil production and can really endanger the environment by emitting highly dangerous waste and smoke from the factories.
The advocate bodies representing the food groups had taken this issue to court in November 2007. They had sought a stay on the import and sale of genetically modified Soya-bean and its by-products in the country. The groups challenged that genetically modified organisms should be barred in Pakistan until the government develops a regulatory framework to deal with import, sale, distribution and labeling of such food products.
“The government must formulate a regulatory framework to autonomously determine the safety aspects of such products,’ quoted one of the lawyers representing the two groups in the court.
The official government response was: “genetically modified soya oil is in use all over the world since 1996. Not a single report of any harmful effect on human health and environment has been reported.”
In contradiction to this statement, the authorities have countered certain scientifically recognized facts that protein and deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) contamination makes it difficult to extract pure oil.
But the government has ruled out any immediate need to put safeguards in place to regulate genetically modified organisms. Currently, Pakistan has no law that bans the import of transgenic products. The country’s 1961 Food & Environment Act merely requires exporters to label products with a list of the ingredients.
In contrast, the European Parliament ratified a U.N. bio-safety protocol regulating international trade in genetically modified food in June 2003. The protocol lets countries in the European Union to ban imports of a genetically modified product if they feel there is not enough scientific evidence the product is safe and requires exporters to label shipments containing genetically altered commodities such as corn or cotton. It makes clear that products from new technologies must be based on the precautionary principle and allows developing nations to balance public health against economic benefits.
A lawyer working with the Network for Consumer Protection in Pakistan, pointed out:
“For genetically modified food, too, the government will need to introduce labeling to ensure that consumers can make their choice,”
The case remains in process, and further proceedings are yet to achieve a decision.