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Egypt takes a permissive approach to genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and its public policy does not oppose growing, importing, and exporting genetically modified crops. Egyptian activists have voiced their rejection of this policy.  Egyptian laws do not contain restrictions on researching, producing, or marketing genetically modified crops and food products.  The country also has no restrictions on releasing genetically modified organisms into the environment.  A draft law on biosafety was not approved by the Egyptian Parliament.

I.  Introduction

In spite of Egypt’s announcement in 2009 that any agricultural import must have a certificate from the country of origin stating that the product is not genetically modified,[1] the country takes a permissive approach to genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and its public policy does not oppose growing, importing, and exporting genetically modified crops.  According to recent news reports, Egypt ranks third in Africa in planting and importing genetically modified crops.[2]  Since December 2010, genetically modified crops have been planted without restrictions in ten different Egyptian provinces,[3] including one thousand hectares of genetically modified maize in 2012.  In 2008, Egypt became the first North African country to grow genetically modified crops,[4] and it is now one of the five countries worldwide to introduce biotech crops to other countries.[5] 

Egypt not only engages in growing and trading genetically modified crops, but also provides training to other countries to develop their capacity to produce such crops, one example being Tanzania, to which Egypt agreed to provide technical assistance in 2004.[6] 

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II. Public and Scholarly Opinion

Egyptian activists have voiced their rejection of the country’s policies of growing, importing, and exporting genetically modified crops.  In May 2013, around one hundred activists protested in front of the Ministry of Agriculture to condemn the use of genetically modified food products.[7]  The protest was a result of news reports stating that genetically modified food products cause cancer.[8]  Previously, in August 2012, Egyptian scientists from Cairo University had announced that genetically modified crops planted in Egypt cause health hazards, including organ failure.[9]

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III. Structure of Pertinent Legislation

 

In an attempt to curb the proliferation of genetically modified crops and food products, activists have collaborated with the Nature Protection Section of the Ministry of Environment to draft legislation, titled the Biosafety Law, that would regulate genetically modified crops and food products in Egyptian markets.  In November 2011, the draft legislation was approved by the Council of Ministers.  However, neither the People’s Assembly (the lower chamber of Egypt’s Parliament) nor the Shura Council (the upper chamber of the Parliament) has approved the measure.[10]

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IV.  Restrictions on Research, Production, and Marketing

Egypt does not have any restriction on researching, producing, or marketing genetically modified crops and food products.  To the contrary, in 2011, Egypt commercialized genetically modified cotton.[11]  This initiative followed a research phase, which had begun in May 2007.[12] 

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V. Restrictions on Releasing Organisms into the Environment

Egypt has no restrictions on releasing genetically modified organisms into the environment.  In March 2008, the Ministry of Agriculture approved the domestic cultivation of genetically modified corn, and the Egyptian Ministry of Agriculture allowed the importation of twenty-eight tons of genetically modified corn seeds into Egyptian markets.  However, in the spring of 2009, genetically modified corn seed imports were halted so that the National Biosafety Committee (NBC) could complete the country’s National Biosafety Framework (though the NBC continued to permit the planting of locally produced biotech seeds in newly reclaimed areas).[13]

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VI. Restrictions on GMOs in Foodstuffs

Ministerial Resolution 770-2005, issued by the Minister of Foreign Trade, bans canned tuna that is packed in genetically modified oil.[14]  It appears, however, that there are no other restrictions on GMOs in foodstuffs under Egyptian law.

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VII.  Liability Regime

Egyptian law provides for no liability or damages for the use of genetically modified crops or food products.

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VIII.  Judicial Decisions / Prominent Cases

No judicial decisions or prominent cases on this topic have been located.

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George Sadek
Senior Legal Research Analyst
March 2014

 


[1] Maha El Dahan, Egypt Says No GM Food Exports or Imports, Reuters (Aug. 12, 2009), http://www.reuters.com /article/2009/08/12/us-egypt-food-idUSTRE57B3VS20090812.

[2] Louise Sarant, Biotechnology Report: 1000 Hectares of Genetically Modified Maize Grows in Egypt, Egypt Independent (Mar. 14, 2013), http://www.egyptindependent.com/news/biotechnology-report-1000-hectares-genetically-modified-maize-grows-egypt.

[3] Louise Sarant, Tests on Rats Suggest Genetically Modified Foods Pose Health Hazards, Egypt Independent (Aug. 12, 2012), http://www.egyptindependent.com/news/tests-rats-suggest-genetically-modified-foods-pose-health-hazards.

[4] Ademola A. Adenle, BMC Research Notes – Response to Issues on GM Agriculture in Africa: Are Transgenic Crops Safe? (2011), http://www.biomedcentral.com/content/pdf/1756-0500-4-388.pdf.

[5] Clive James, ISAAA Brief 39 – Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2008 (2008), http://isaaa.org/resources/publications/briefs/39/download/isaaa-brief-39-2008.pdf.

[6] Deodatus Balile, Egypt Will Help Tanzania with “Inevitable” GM Crops, SciDevNet (June 18, 2004), http://www.scidev.net/global/gm/news/egypt-will-help-tanzania-with-inevitable-gm-crop.html.

[7] Marwa Hussein, Egyptian Activists Launch First Protest Against Genetically Modified Food, Ahramonline (May 26, 2013), http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/3/12/72305/Business/Economy/Egyptian-activists-launch-first-protest-against-ge.aspx.

[8] American Company Exports Carcinogenic Genetically Modified Crops to Egypt, Al-Nahar (May 26, 2013), http://www.alnaharegypt.com/t127804 (in Arabic).

[9] Louise Sarant, Tests on Rats Suggest Genetically Modified Foods Pose Health Hazards, Egypt Independent (Aug. 12, 2012), http://www.egyptindependent.com/news/tests-rats-suggest-genetically-modified-foods-pose-health-hazards.

[10] Haytham Khayri, Biosafety Law Protecting Citizens from Chaos Caused by Genetically Modified Food Products, Al-Shorouk (Oct. 8, 2011), http://www.shorouknews.com/news/view.aspx?cdate=08102011&id=49170ffe-e4f9-420f-9ecf-479b41a34f23.

[11] Phillip De Wet, The Tide Turns in Favor of Biotech Foods, Mail&Guardian (May 2, 2012), http://mg.co.za /article/2012-05-02-the-tide-turns-in-favour-of-biotech-foods.

[12] USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, Egypt: Food and Agricultural Import Regulations and Standards Narrative – Fairs Country Report (July 28, 2009), http://gain.fas.usda.gov/Recent%20GAIN%20 Publications/Food%20and%20Agricultural%20Import%20Regulations%20and%20Standards%20-%20Narrative_Cairo_Egypt_7-28-2009.pdf.

[13] Id.

[14] Ministerial Resolution 770-2005, Al-Waqa’a Al-Masriyyah (supp.), vol. 234, p. 2, available in English on the official website of the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Industry, at http://www.mfti.gov.eg/english/laws.htm (click on Executive Regulation to Implement Import and Export Law).

 

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Last Updated: 05/22/2014