The Bangladesh Food Safety Authority said it will impose restriction so that genetically modified food, known as GM food, are not imported without specific declaration.
The authority further said that many GM food items are currently being imported without proper labelling. This keeps the consumers in the dark about those products.
"These items must have labels so that consumers can correctly identify these as GM food items. We will also request the National Board of Revenue and Bangladesh Customs to bar GM food import without specific declaration," Food Safety Authority Chairman Mahbub Kabir said at a workshop in Dhaka on Tuesday.
"We lack a proper policy for inspection of genetically modified food at the post-production phase. The customers should decide whether they would eat it or not," he said while addressing the workshop titled "Genetically Modified Food: Requirements for Compliance and Consumers Awareness."
The Bangladesh Food Safety Authority and South Asia Biosafety Programme jointly hosted the event.
"Bangladesh is currently unable to evaluate genetically modified food items. Authenticity of product information provided by the manufacturers can be questioned. But we do not have the ability to verify those," said Manjur Morshed Ahmed, member of the Food Safety Authority.
He added that there is no guideline too, except some technical committees of the Department of Environment and Food Safety Authority.
Discussants at the programme said that people are deeply skeptical about GM food items, as Bangladesh lacks the institutional skill and cooperation to monitor such products. Inadequate number of research on long-term health effects of the products also intensifies the confusion.
The discussants said that the Food Safety Act, 2013 states little about genetically modified food. The packaging and labelling section of the act makes packaging mandatory of such food items.
"But genetically engineered BT eggplant, the first genetically engineered food crop to be successfully introduced in South Asia, is not very convenient for packaging. It is a weakness of the act," they said.
At the event, Dr Andrew F Roberts, deputy executive director of the ILSI Research Foundation, USA, talked about the global perspective of genetically engineered food. Dr Vibha Ahuja, chief general manager of the Biotech Consortium India ltd, discussed the respective guidelines in neighbouring India.