Labelling legislation for genetically modified food, Sri Lanka

Thanks to the engagement of several EJO's, Sri Lanka has regulated the labelling legislations for genetically modified food since January 2007. However public institutions fail to assure that food is either GM free or labelled

Thanks to a legal case filed by the Center for Environmental Justice (CEJ) and the engagement of several civil society actors, Sri Lanka has regulated the labeling legislations for genetically modified foods since January 2007. Following the regulation, it is now mandatory for importers and local manufacturers of GM foods to label these products. According to the law, all GM food items must now carry a prominent sticker informing that the product contains GM materials, giving the consumer the freedom of choice. Defaulters of this law have to face a six-month jail term or a Rs. 10,000 fine, or both, under the Food Act, No. 26 of 1980 [1].
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Basic Data
NameLabelling legislation for genetically modified food, Sri Lanka
CountrySri Lanka
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture and Livestock Management)
Type of Conflict (2nd level)GMOs
Intensive food production (monoculture and livestock)
Specific CommoditiesCoffee
Fruits and Vegetables
GMO food and products
Biological resources
Project Details and Actors
Project Details
In May 2005, the Centre for Environmental Justice, filed its writ application No.1380/06, Hemantha Withanage Vs Consumer Affairs Authority and others. Consequently, the Government of Sri Lanka finally approved a GM food labeling legislation (Gazette Ex. Ordinary. 1456/22, 3rd August 2006) on August 2006, making it mandatory for importers and local manufacturers of GM foods to label their products in the future.
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Level of Investment (in USD)unknown
Potential Affected Populationwhole country
Start Date2000
Company Names or State EnterprisesMonsanto Corporation (Monsanto Co) from United States of America
Relevant government actorsMinistry of Health and Indigenous Medicine

Consumer Affairs Authority

Government of Sri Lanka
International and Financial InstitutionsWorld Trade Organisation (WTO)
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersCentre for Environmental Justice (CEJ)

Environmental Foundation Limited (EFL)

MONLAR (the Movement for National Land and Agricultural Reform)
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationArtistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Boycotts of companies-products
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Genetic contamination
Potential: Other Environmental impacts
OtherUncertain impacts of GMO crops on ecosystems
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Potential: Occupational disease and accidents, Malnutrition
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCriminalization of activists
Institutional changes
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
New legislation
Development of AlternativesTo ban import and production of GMO foods empowering traditional agriculture.
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.Since January 2007, Sri Lanka regulated the labelling legislations for the genetically modified foods. However, following the statement of the Centre for Environmental Justice, the Health Officials or the Consumer Affairs Authority have failed to test and assure that food items are either GM free or labelled.
Sources and Materials

Seed and Planting Material Act

EU Regulation 1829/2003
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Food Act, No. 26 of 1980
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National Policy on Biosafety, 2005
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Navdanya, 2013. The law of the seed.
[click to view]


[1] Article published on CEJ blog. Sri Lanka- Law to label GM foods gazetted. Posted by Hemantha Withanage on August 2006
[click to view]

[2] Ejustice report Volume 1 Issue 3, APRIL 2014. Ask why Authorities keep you dark on GM's food
[click to view]

[4] Article published on Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide web site: EFL Position on Genetically Modified Food ban In Sri Lanka. August 2001
[click to view]

[3] News paper article from 'The Island': US told not to dump untested GM food in Sri Lanka. By Nadeera Seneviratne, 2001
[click to view]

[5] Article published on New Internationalist web site: Sri Lankan farmers resist new seed law. By Lasanda Kurukulasuriya. 2014
[click to view]

[6] Online article from 'The Island' (4/02/2013). Frankenfoods: A Sri Lankan Perspective of the Inevitable Rise of Genetically Modified Foods. By Dilani Hirimuthugodage. (accessed 22/06/2015)
[click to view]

Other Documents

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Meta Information
ContributorCentre for Environmental Justice (Colombo, Sri Lanka) and Paola Camisani (EJOLT team, Barcelona)
Last update15/07/2015