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Cablegate: Status of Biotechnology Regulations in Sri Lanka

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS COLOMBO 001705

SIPDIS

DEPT PLEASE PASS TO EB:DMALAC, OES:HLEE
DEPT ALSO PASS USAID:JLEWIS
DEPT ALSO PASS EPA FOR JANDERSON
FDA FOR RLAKE
USDA FOR FAS/OA:BSIMMONS, APHIS/BRS:JTURNER
NEW DELHI FOR FAS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR ECON ETRD SENV TBIO TSPL CE ECONOMICS
SUBJECT: STATUS OF BIOTECHNOLOGY REGULATIONS IN SRI LANKA

REF: SECSTATE 263456

1. Summary: Sri Lanka does not have formal
biotechnology regulations on the production and
import of agricultural biotech products into the
country. An attempt to ban the import of GMO foods
in 2001 was abandoned due to intense lobbying from
foreign missions (including the U.S) and trade
partners. Currently, NGOs opposed to GMOs are
promulgating labeling for importation of GMO
products. There is much confusion regarding the
benefits and risks of biotech products in Sri Lanka,
as information available in the local media does not
accurately reflect an unbiased view of
biotechnology. End Summary

2. Sri Lanka signed the Biosafety Protocol on 24 May
2000, and plans to ratify the agreement as early as
possible. The Ministry of Environment and Natural
Resources is the focal point for biosafety and has
an obligation to implement the articles of the
protocol. The Ministry has initiated a project to
establish a National Biosafety Framework (NBF) to
ensure safety in import of GMOs into the country.
The Framework must be completed before ratification
of the Protocol. One of Sri Lanka's most prominent
agricultural scientists, Professor Athula Perera,
has been appointed the National Project Coordinator
and is entrusted with the task of producing a
comprehensive NBF document. Professor Perera was
responsible for setting up the first biotech
laboratory in the country and has implemented trials
for some crops.

3. The project is expected to take approximately 18
months to complete. The planned outcomes from the
establishment of the NBF include:

--inventories of current use of biotechnology,
--existing legal instruments related to
biotech/biosafety,
--active or planned national projects for capacity
building related to the safe use of biotechnology,
--database of relevant experts,
--access to relevant information for all
stakeholders,
--mechanisms for adequate involvement of all
stakeholders on biosafety-related issues,
--drafts of legal instruments,
--systems of risk management and audit,
--administrative system for compliance with the
Cartegena Protocol,
--mechanisms for public consultations on the
decision making process regarding GMOs,
--mechanism for sharing scientific knowledge at
subregional level,
--publication of inventories,
--reports of national meetings and the final
national biosafety framework.

4. The Council for Agriculture Research Policy
(CARP), a government-funded research organization,
and the National Science Foundation are actively
involved in researching priority areas to
incorporate biotech into the domestic agriculture
and livestock sectors. Rice, rubber and ornamental
fish have already been identified in this respect.
Professor Perera also commented that the
establishment of the NBF will assist the country in
harnessing all aspects of modern biotechnology under
a central focal point in a safe and responsible
manner. The NBF, according to Dr. Perera, will not
be a barrier, but a mechanism to incorporate modern
technology into domestic agriculture.

5. Contact information for the NBF Project follows:
The National Project Coordinator
National Biosafety Framework Development Project
Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources
104, Robert Gunawardane Mawatha
Battaramulla
Sri Lanka
Tel: 94-1-286-1395
E-mail: nbfsl@sltnet.lk

LUNSTEAD

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