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Egypt Bans GMOs?

Egypt has been enforcing some stringent food quality standards, and now they’re talking about banning all imports and exports of genetically modified foods (GMOs).


[Cairo. Creative Commons photo by Andrew A. Shenouda]

Over the summer, Egyptian officials rejected several import shipments of wheat, saying they were unfit for human consumption. Since then, the parliament has been pushing for stricter food standards. It looks like they got their wish.

Banning GMOs is tricky business. Even farms that raise GMO-free crops can’t necessarily avoid cross contamination from neighboring fields. Egypt’s Agriculture Minister Amin Abaza says they will determine food quality through testing and that “no agricultural products especially wheat, corn and soya bean would enter except after examining samples from the cargo.” He’s also calling for certification on imports and exports:

…it was necessary that all crops imported from abroad and exported from Egypt be accompanied by a certificate from the country of origin stating they are free of genetically modified materials.

Since Egypt is one of the world’s biggest wheat importers, could this ban send a message to farmers considering the switch to Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Wheat?

Some folks are skeptical about the ban. It’s tough to find GMO-free soybean oil, for example, though Brazil does produce some non-GMO soybeans. I’m definitely interested to see where this policy goes! What do you guys think?

UPDATE
It’s looking like Egypt’s isn’t enacting the ban after all. According to a Reuter’s report:

The agency [MENA] quoted an unnamed official at the Agriculture Ministry as stating that earlier reports citing Amin Abaza ordering that a certificate accompany all imports to show they were free of genetically modified materials were “not correct.”

The original report of the decision was published by MENA…

via Reuters

6 comments
  1. Matt D

    This is a real shame. It’s the worst approach a developing country could take. Genetic engineering is an extremely powerful tool (in the right hands) that’s a natural and safe extension of traditional breeding. They should follow India’s lead and try to focus on supporting their own public sector scientists to create improved varieties that suit their local environment and culture by whatever techniques are most effective.

  2. Carol

    Turkey does not allow commercial production of GMO crops and the parliament is getting ready to decide this fall on putting further restraints and checks on imported crops and packaged goods containing GMOs. A large and growing movement in Turkey has reached many levels of the public standing against GMO and demanding to know what products on the market contain them. Many organizations from farmers union and engineers chambers to ecology cooperatives and consumer groups are behind it and there are also many efforts to support more organic farming which is viable and sustainable agriculture for the future.

  3. Steve Savage

    It wasn’t that long ago that there were food riots in Egypt because of global grain shortage – particularly for wheat and rice. Once the recession is over, all the same forces are in place to once again draw-down grain stocks. A poor nation that is highly dependent on food imports would probably not be wise to irrationally limit its import options. Of course this is a dictatorship and so they may not have the interests of their poor in mind. Neither do the rich Europeans who have influenced Egypt to even consider this ban. But hey, at least this would make GreenPeace happy.

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