While Vietnam has imported genetically modified (GM) corn and soybeans for around decade, the country is trying to set up a legal framework for the application of biotechnology domestically.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) held a seminar on October 10 in Hanoi to collect opinions about a draft circular which would approve the process of issuing and revoking certificates for GM crops to be used as food and feed.
The four-chapter, six-article draft regulation compiled by MARD is considered a step towards the application of biotechnology, creating a legal framework and giving a green light to the development of GM crops in the country in the time to come.
The circular applies to organsations, households and individuals in the country, overseas Vietnamese, foreign organisations and individuals carrying out activities of or related to the issuing and revocation of a certificate of GM crops that satisfy conditions to be used as food or feed in territory of Vietnam.
MARD is responsible for the issuance and revocation of GM food and feed safety certificates based on the decision of the GM Food, Feed Safety Committee (FFSC).
The draft circular regulates GM plants carrying a one or more genes transferred to control targeted traits of the crop.
The GM crops could be sold as food or feed once they were given a certificate by the FFSC, which has stated that there is no uncontrollable risk to human or animal health; or it has been approved for use as food, feed in five developed countries in OECD and/or G20 and has not posed any risk in those countries. The licensing process of the first case would take 180 days, while the second case would last for only 60 days.
The FFSC shall be composed of nine members, with chairman and vice-chairman chosen from MARD, four others from the Ministry of Industry and Trade, Ministry of Science and Technology, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, and Ministry of Health and two scientists expertise in related fields.
All plant materials in the scope of this circular shall register for the certificate for one year after the circular takes effect.
Several experts agreed that it is necessary to establish a legal framework for the application of GM plants in Vietnam. Some called for a change in viewpoint about GMO as Vietnam has already imported GM corn and soybeans as feed for around a decade.
“We’ve imported GM corn, soybeans and soybean meal from the US, Argentina and Brazil, where over 90% of such farm produce for feed are GM products. This means that we’ve consumed food containing modified genes for around one decade, so we should reexamine our view on this issue,” said Dr. Nguyen Quang Thach, a senior lecturer at Hanoi University of Agriculture.
The application of GM plants in Vietnam is expected to help increase local productivity and gradually reduce imports of feed materials in the time to come.
“Last year, Vietnam imported over four tonnes of soybeans and soybean meal and 1.5 million tonnes of corn. If domestic production could meet demand, feed producers could easily buy materials from local farmers and this would help save their time and money as well,” said Le Ba Lich, Chairman of the Vietnam Animal Feed Association.
Several other experts proposed amending the draft circular so as to tightly control the imports of GM crops and simplify procedures for those who seek the certificate while encouraging farmers to expand their production and lower the prices of domestic feed.
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