Egypt Bans Genetically Modified Food - Can it be Done?


Photo via Crossed Crocodiles

In a surprising move, Egypt just announced that it won't be importing or exporting any genetically modified foods. Period. Plenty of traders both inside and outside the country were stunned, seeing as how Egypt's main agricultural imports currently include many GMOs. Can the nation realistically succeed in cutting out genetically modified foods on such a large scale?According to Reuters,

Any agricultural imports to Egypt must have a certificate from the country of origin that the product is not genetically modified and the rule will also apply to Egyptian exports, the official news agency said on Wednesday.
Evidently, debates over food quality have erupted in Egypt after an import of Russian wheat was rejected by officials. Shortly after, the ban on genetically modified foods reportedly emerged. But what are the ramifications of such a ban--and is it even possible to completely cut GMOs out of a country's food imports? They are after all incredibly pervasive--take the example of soy oil. From Reuters:
"A non-GMO policy would not cause difficulties for sunflower oil but it would for soyoil," one European trader said. "It would mean that soyoil imports would only be possible from Brazil and not from the U.S. or Argentina," he said. The three countries are the world's largest soyoil exporters.
Okay, so two out of your three options are out. So it looks like an easy choice--you simply import your soy oil from Brazil. Except that regulating such a no-GMOs-allowed policy would be tough to regulate:
The trader added it would be "immensely difficult to give a guarantee that Brazilian soyoil is GMO free as Brazil also has large GMO production and it is certainly possible that GMO soybeans could be mixed with non-GMO beans."
While certain imports would certainly impose some difficulties, others would be easier--wheat that's not genetically modified, for example, is readily available and easily imported. And I think the question isn't whether Egypt can truly succeed in eliminating GMOs from its food supply entirely and immediately, but the impact the decision has on the countries it trades with--will say, a company making soy oil in the US attempt to create a GMO-free product to meet the market need? Or will companies deem Egypt's soyoil market not worth the hassle? And perhaps, most importantly, what effect will Egypt's GMO ban have on other nations growing increasingly concerned with food quality?

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Tags: Africa | Economics