The director of the Vietnam Institute of Agriculture Genetics, Dr Le Dinh Luong, has said Vietnam must develop an appropriate legal framework to guide the cultivation and use of genetically modified organisms (GMO) in food production.

Speaking at a Consultative Workshop in the capital city on October 9, Luong addressed the need help the government manage the use of GMO and develop legal parameters for scientific research.

The workshop also considered a draft Circular on procedures to certify genetically modified organisms used in food and animal feed production.

"In reality, GMOs have been used in our country for around ten years, however, the application of genetically modified crop technology in production is still undergoing field trials to assess the efficiency and risks," Luong said.

Workshop participants expressed support for genetically modified crops (GMC) as an effective model for high yield agricultural production, but acknowledged it required ‘smart' application in the right conditions.

Faced with the reality of global trade and competition, participants also agreed a legal framework was an important step in creating high-quality GMO brands in Vietnam .

In his address, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Le Quoc Doanh said the building of the Circular was aimed to create strict controls around GMCs produced in Vietnam as well as those imported.

"Good controls will contribute to food safety and enable GMC technology to meet the requirements of changing crop plantation. It also lays the foundation for the restructuring of our country's primary industry - agriculture - and limits our dependence on imported maize and soybean," Doanh said.

Under the draft Circular, any GMC wanting to be certified must meet at least one of two conditions.

Firstly, it must meet all the requirements to be used in food or animal feed, and must not pose any risks to human or animal health.

Secondly, the GMC must be used in at least five other countries as food or as animal feed, without having posed any risks in those markets.

Le Ba Lich, President of the Viet Nam Animal Feed Association, said authorities should impose stricter control on GMOs, yet urged for streamlining procedures to grant certificates to Vietnamese businesses so that they could compete with imported GMOs.

According to Lich, Viet Nam imported more than 4 million tonnes of soybean and soybean oil and 1.5 tonnes of maize; most of which were from GMCs.

At present, 28 countries in the world use GMCs, with 52 percent of GMCs belonging to developing countries such as India , China , Paraguay , Pakistan and Myanmar .

It is reported that the acreage used to grow GMCs increases about 11 per cent annually. By 2012, more than 170ha of GMCs would be in use.-VNA