El Salvador. Agricultural Biotechnology Annual – 2015. Aug 2015 Aug. 5, 2015
Even though there is no legal impediment to use of GMOs, and GMO corn field trials have been successfully completed, El Salvador's Ministry of Environment has not completed the necessary steps of the regulatory framework for their safe use and commercialization.
On April 30th 2008, El Salvador abolished Article 30 of the Planting Seed Law that required imported seeds to have a phytosanitary certificate with an additional declaration stating that the seeds did not contain Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). El Salvador ratified the Cartagena Protocol in 2003. The Environment Law, effective since 1998 provides guidance on assessing the environmental impact of GMOs.
El Salvador is a net food importer. White corn, red kidney beans, and rice are the major staples. The United States is the main supplier of yellow corn for animal feed, rice, wheat, vegetable oil, tallow, soybean meal and cotton, among other products.
Currently there are no restrictions on imports of agricultural biotech products. The only law that regulated trade of biotech products was the Planting Seed Law that became effective in September 2001. Title IV of this law – Final and Transitory Dispositions, Chapter I, Article 30 stated that it was prohibited to import, conduct research on, produce or commercialize Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) seeds. Due to pressure from the private sector and to the rising food costs, on April 30th, 2008, the Government of El Salvador (GOES) decided to abolish Article 30 (Please see Chapter 1, Part B: Plant Biotechnology Policy).
The other law that addresses biotechnology is the Environment Law, effective since May 1998. Article 21 Paragraph "Ñ" of this law provides regulations for carrying out environmental impact studies to determine if GMOs are harmful to the environment and Article 68 provides guidance on procedures to create bio-safety norms. El Salvador also ratified the Cartagena Protocol and it has been in effect since December 25, 2003.
El Salvador's biotechnology regulatory system is still being developed. The Environment Ministry conducted a project financed by the Global Environment Fund (GEF) and the United Nations Environment Program from July 2002 to August 2004 to define the legal framework for a law that would provide guidance for proposals to regulate GMOs and also to define coordination among the Ministries of Agriculture, Environment, and Health regarding biotechnology. In May 2011, the Ministry of Environment launched the second phase of the GEF program with a $1.0 million funding level to work for four additional years on "Safety of Modern Biotechnology".
The GOES administration that was in office from 2004 to 2009 made a proposal for a Special Ruling for the Safe Use and Commercialization of GMOs that was to be presented to the National Assembly for approval and ratification. Once this step was accomplished, a Biosecurity Committee was to be created to assure compliance with the ruling. However, the future of GMO's is on hold until the current GOES administration (2014-2019) that took office on June 1, 2014, decides on a new course of action.
The main applications for biotechnology have been in the cultivation of vegetable tissue and propagation of vegetable materials in vitro. The National Center for Agricultural and Forestry Technology (CENTA) of the Ministry of Agriculture (MAG) is the main GOES institution offering tools to develop improved crop varieties. CENTA has mainly focused on creating improved white corn, rice, and red kidney bean varieties to increase productivity.
The National Food Commission composed of the Ministries of Agriculture, Environment and Health has formulated a proposal for the "Special Ruling for Food Safety of Modern Biotechnology Derived Products" with the objective of complying with Article 11 of the Cartagena Protocol.
MAG has created an Institutional Biosafety Commission to formulate proposals for the registration of agricultural inputs derived from biotechnology, including the creation of proposals for special rulings.
The Ministry of Environment created on May 20th, 2009, the Scientific Committee for Biosecurity. The Committee will serve as an advisor and is composed of representatives from the Ministries of Agriculture, Environment, and Health, from the Chamber of Agriculture (CAMAGRO), from the Agricultural Input Association (APA) and from the National University. However, this Committee has not met since being created because there is a lack of regulations outlining the function of the Committee.
The private sector has been active in biotechnology, carrying out several activities geared to support the safe use of biotech products. (Please see Chapter 1, Part B: Plant Biotechnology Policy)
PLANT AND ANIMAL BIOTECHNOLOGY
CHAPTER 1: PLANT BIOTECHNOLOGY
PART A: PRODUCTION AND TRADE
a) PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT: Not applicable.
b) COMMERCIAL PRODUCTION:
El Salvador does not produce any biotech crops and there are no crops under development that would be in the market in the coming year. El Salvador does not produce biotech crops developed outside the United States that have not passed through the U. S. regulatory system. El Salvador, however, does import biotech products mainly from the United States; these are yellow corn, white corn, soybean meal, cotton, and corn-soy blend (CSB).
c) EXPORTS: Not applicable.
There are no obstacles to importing/marketing genetically engineered (GE) crops and processed products in El Salvador at this time. Being a densely populated developing nation, El Salvador must rely on imported food to satisfy local demand. El Salvador is dependent upon imported soybeans, soybean meal and yellow corn as feed protein sources. The United States is the main trading partner for El Salvador and U.S. products are regarded as being of higher quality than others available in the market and also safe to consume.
e) FOOD AID RECIPIENT COUNTRIES:
El Salvador has been a food aid recipient for the past decade and continues to receive food assistance from the United States and Europe. Wheat, soybean meal, yellow corn and vegetable oil are the main commodities sent to El Salvador as food assistance.
PART B: POLICY
a) REGULATORY FRAMEWORK:
The regulatory framework for agricultural biotechnology is in the development stage in El Salvador. Through the first phase of the GEF-funded project, the GOES has written a proposal for a regulatory framework that includes national policy for biotechnology, a national policy for bio-safety, an administrative and regulatory system for imports of GMOs, a decision making support system, and a mechanism for social participation and consultation. Public consultations have concluded and a "Special Ruling for the Safe Handling of GMOs," whose objective is to provide the environmental permit for any activity or project that implies genetic handling or production of GMOs was published in the Official Gazette on July 1, 2008.
The initiative is a complement to the creation in 2003 of the National Bio-safety Commission composed of members of the Ministries of Agriculture (MAG), Environment (MARN) and Public Health (MSPAS), the National Commission for Science and Technology (CONACYT), and private sector representatives. An additional effort has been the creation of El Salvador's Biotechnology Clearing House (BCH-El Salvador), available at the MARN's web site.
In May 2011, a second phase of the GEF program was launched by the Ministry of Environment with a funding level of $1.0 million to be executed in 4 years. The objective of this program is to implement a regulatory framework and strengthen the capacity of the government agencies involved directly or indirectly with the implementation of the Cartagena Protocol. There is private sector participation in the process mainly through the Agricultural Technology Innovation Foundation (FIAGRO) and the Agricultural Input Provider Association (APA).
Under the proposed regulatory framework, MARN would be the institution in charge of enforcing the safe handling of GMOs and coordinating with MAG and MSPAS on appropriate bio-safety applications. Currently there is no list of approved biotech crops for food, processing, feed or environment.
There are no approved plants or crops for cultivation or exports in El Salvador. Imports of GE crops or processed products are not restricted.
c) FIELD TESTING:
Field-testing of biotechnology crops has been conducted to study the behavior of biotech crops in the local environment. Two companies presented on July 2008 the requests to import two varieties of genetically modified (GM) corn to evaluate their development in experimental conditions. The authorization was granted on December 2008 and the cultivation of the crop, with irrigation systems, was started that same month. A cost/benefit analysis has been carried out by the National Center for Agricultural Technology (CENTA) and by the Ministry of Environment to determine the viability of these crops. The results of the analysis were made public and provided positive findings. However, the current GOES administration (2014-2019), specifically the Ministry of Environment, is holding up the process mainly due to political and ideologically-inclined opposition to the use of the technology.
d) STACKED EVENT APPROVALS: Not applicable.
e) ADDITIONAL REQUIREMENTS: Not applicable.
f) COEXISTANCE: Not applicable.
El Salvador requires labeling for packaged foods mainly for health and consumer information. Nutrition facts and ingredient lists are part of the label. Labeling for food products that contain GEs is required under Article 128 of the Consumer Law; however, this rule is currently not being enforced.
h) TRADE BARRIERS:
On December 2012 and again on December 2013, El Salvador's National Assembly passed Decree 198 "Special transitional provisions to develop the production of certified corn and bean seeds" for seed used in the Presidential Agricultural Package Giveaway Program.
This Decree states that only local producers can participate in the provision of certified corn and bean seeds for the Package Giveaway Program managed by the Ministry of Agriculture.
The primary concern is that a number of provisions in the decree are not consistent with the government procurement obligations of the CAFTA-DR, specifically Chapter 9.
For the 2015 program, the GOES has made the necessary changes to the Decree in order to comply with CAFTA-DR procurement provisions.
i) INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS (IPR): Not applicable.
j) CARTAGENA PROTOCOL RATIFICATION:
El Salvador signed and ratified the Bio-safety Protocol, also known as the Cartagena Protocol, on April 23, 2003, which has been in force since December 25, 2003. There is no impact on trade at this time due to the Protocol rules.
Progress towards implementing biotechnology laws and regulations has been slowed by a lack of access by the legislative branch to scientific information about biotechnology. Until recently, political party agendas affected the ability of the government to obtain approval from the National Assembly for new government policies. However, on April 30th, 2008, an agreement in the National Assembly among center right political parties gave way to the abolishment of Article 30 of the Planting Seed Law which was the only impediment to begin the use of biotech crops in El Salvador.
In addition, El Salvador still has many gaps in the National Administrative and Regulatory System to be able to respond to the current challenges presented by the movement across borders of modern biotech products, especially with respect to the permit requests, their movement through the proper channels and the authorizations to carry out activities with GMO's.
At this time, only the Ministry of Environment is partially complying with the obligations of the Cartagena Protocol and there is lack of coordination among competent institutions to respond to permit requests for the access of GMO's to the country.
The private sector has formed a "Biotechnology and Biosecurity Commission" that is coordinated by the Agricultural Research Foundation (FIAGRO) to promote the application of biotechnology and its safe use in the El Salvadoran agricultural sector.
FIAGRO has also created the "Biotechnology Network of El Salvador" that is composed of businessmen, academia, technical experts, independent consultants, and government institutions. The objective of this network is to drive agricultural biotechnology through the formulation of biotech oriented projects that assist in resolving specific problems and also provide value added and innovation opportunities.
The network has formulated the following projects with a biotech profile:
- Molecular characterization of Bourbon Coffee.
- Micro dissemination in vitro of cedar and mahogany trees through the germination of plantlet.
- Genetic study of "Loroco" (Fernaldia sp) through morphologic, biochemical and molecular markers.
- Cultivation and transformation of soy biomass for energy production.
In addition, FIAGRO is working on a Risk Analysis Guide for the release of genetically modified cotton and white corn seeds.
k) INTERNATIONAL TREATIES/FORA:
Due to lack of resources El Salvador does not participate in International for such as the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) or the Codex Alimentarius (Codex) discussions related to GE plants.
l) RELATED ISSUES:
The international association "CropLife" has been active in El Salvador to raise public awareness of biotechnology in general. In 2012, this institution carried out a three day outreach activity in Danlí, Honduras for 18 agricultural leaders to witness GE corn plantations during the harvest period. The purpose of their visit was to have Salvadoran producers exchange ideas with Honduran GE corn producers with regards to yields, government support, local market, and crop management.
CropLife has also held meetings with Salvadoran academia, member of the National Assembly's agricultural commission, Ministry of Education's Science and Technology Division, Ministry of Agriculture Technology Transfer Division (CENTA) and legal advisors of the Ministry of Environment; to raise the knowledge of GE crops and products and also to present the progress made in Central America regarding biotechnology.
m) MONITORING AND TESTING: Not applicable.
n) LOW LEVEL PRESENCE POLICY: Not applicable.
PART C: MARKETING
a) MARKET ACCEPTANCE:
There are no obstacles to marketing biotech products in El Salvador at this time. Being a densely populated developing nation, El Salvador must rely on imported food to satisfy local demand. The United States is the main trading partner for El Salvador and U.S. products are regarded as being of higher quality than others available in the market and also safe to consume.
Until recent increases in food prices due to climate change, biotechnology was not a main priority of the government and consuming public, and food safety issues that could affect product marketing were more related to food borne diseases.
b) PUBLIC/PRIVATE OPINIONS:
Sometimes local environmental NGO's turn out articles in written media to oppose GE products. Lack of general public familiarity with the GE technology or science does not help to improve the public/private perception.
c) MARKETING STUDIES: Not applicable.
PART D: CAPACITY BUILDING AND OUTREACH
On July 8th, 2009, USDA funded a biotechnology outreach activity carried out in El Salvador with the cooperation of the National University of El Salvador and the Salvadoran Foundation for Social and Economic Development (FUSADES). Two experts on biotechnology and on Cartagena Protocol regulations were invited to give presentations for academia, NGO's, farmer groups and government institutions.
USDA conducted an outreach activity that was held on June 28-30, 2010, in Honduras to address biotechnology and food security. A delegation of 12 Salvadoran government officials was invited and used Food for Progress funds to attend the activity which included conference presentations and field visits. Also, in cooperation with Zamorano University, USDA, with IICA and Zamorano University, carried out an International Conference on Agriculture and Environment on May 9-12, 2012 in Honduras. El Salvador's Minister of Agriculture participated in this activity.
b) STRATEGIES AND NEEDS:
El Salvador would benefit from future training to raise the knowledge and capacity to apply transparent science-based regulations to agricultural biotechnology. The Ministries of Agriculture, Environment, and Health could benefit from this training, as well as the standards and regulatory setting agency OSARTEC and FIAGRO. Topics such as traceability and coexistence could be included in this training. Along the same lines, training for academia and assistance to include biotechnology as part of agricultural and other educational areas would be beneficial. Providing training, as well as funding, for the National Center for Agricultural Technology (CENTA) to develop local biotechnology and support the dissemination of imported biotechnology would be beneficial as well. FAS is currently discussing with MAG a proposal for a Cocoa project that includes Food for Progress funding to upgrade CENTA's biotechnology lab, as well as chemical reagents and training to lab technicians.
PART E: PRODUCTION AND TRADE
a) BIOTECHNOLOGY PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT:
There is no legislation or regulations in place at this time related to the development, commercial use, import and/or disposal of genetically-engineered animals or products derived from these animals. The relevant government entities that might have a role in the regulation of the genetic engineering of animals would be the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Environment, and the standard setting body National Center for Science and Technology (CENTA). There are no active organizations that lobby for or against the genetic engineering of agriculturally-relevant animals; however, there is a group of NGO's that generally oppose any type of genetic engineering or biotechnology. El Salvador does not actively participate in discussions related to the genetic engineering of agriculturally-relevant animals in international organizations mainly due to the lack of funds for this type of activities.
b) COMMERCIAL PRODUCTION: Not applicable.
c) BIOTECHNOLOGY EXPORTS: Not applicable.
d) BIOTECHNOLOGY IMPORTS: Not applicable.
PART F: POLICY
a) REGULATION: Not applicable.
b) LABELING AND TRACEABILITY: Not applicable.
c) TRADE BARRIERS: Not applicable.
d) INTELECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS (IPR): Not applicable.
e) INTERNATIONAL TREATIES/FOR A: Not applicable.
PART G: MARKETING
a) MARKET ACCEPTANCE:
There is little to no awareness of GE animals among the Salvadoran public.
b) PUBLIC/PRIVATE OPINIONS:
GE animal biotechnology is not a high priority in the local political agenda.
c) MARKET STUDIES: Not applicable.
PART H: CAPACITY BUILDING AND OUTREACH
a) ACTIVITIES: Not applicable.
b) STRATEGIES AND NEEDS:
At this time GE animal biotechnology is not a priority in El Salvador. However, in the near future it would be beneficial to carry out a basic outreach/training seminar for academia, private and public sectors decision makers on the topic and/or invite Ministry of Environment personnel to training seminars carried out in other countries.