Genetically Modified Organisms in Vietnam

Francisco A. Laguna & Annapurna Nandyal

This week, our series on transgenic foods and crops concludes with a focus on Vietnam.  Vietnam is a fascinating country.  TransLegal’s Founder, Francisco, went on a trade mission there in March and met with officials from the Ministry of Science & Technology (MoST), the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), the Ministry of Health (MinHealth) and the Ministry of the Natural Resources and Environment (MoNRE) to discuss issues including biotechnology and genetically modified organisms.

Photo Credit: Pamela S. Katz, Esquire

Photo Credit: Pamela S. Katz, Esquire

In terms of labor force, Vietnam is predominantly agrarian with 48% of the population employed in the agricultural sector. In 2012, agriculture was almost 22% of GDP.  Major products include paddy rice, coffee, rubber, tea, pepper, soybeans, cashews, sugar cane, peanuts, bananas, poultry, fish and seafood.

Vietnam recognizes the importance of biotechnology and transgenic crops, not only for domestic purposes but also for export.  Vietnam is a major world exporter of agricultural products in the world and is bullish on furthering biotechology applications in-country.  Recently, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Nguyen Thi Xuan Thu touted the country’s research and application of gene technology in selecting and creating high yield, quality and disease-resistant species of crops and livestock.

Photo Credit: Pamela S. Katz, Esquire

Photo Credit: Pamela S. Katz, Esquire

Circular 8 states that the evaluation and approval process takes about 230 working days.  Applications are filed with the Vietnam Environment Agency (VEA).  Chapter 2 provides the documents required, including information on the engineered gene, genetic stabilization and potential risk assessment.

As part of the authorization process, the VEA establishes a Technical Advisory Board (TAB) and a Biosafety Committee (BC) to review and assess biosafety. They have 90 days to do so. Thereafter, the VEA and the Minister of MoNRE have 100 days to study the findings of the reviewing committees and approve or deny the application.

Applications are published on the VEA website and subject to a 30-day public comment period.

Photo Credit: Pamela S. Katz, Esquire

Photo Credit: Pamela S. Katz, Esquire

Circular 8 is the first of three regulations governing the commercialization of agricultural transgenic organisms. The other two, focusing on the genetically modified elements in feed and food remain pending.

Vietnam is taking first steps to integrate successfully biotechnology into its agricultural economy.  It is still too early to tell how the process will function, but active engagement with the regulators is clearly recommended.

TransLegal works in Vietnam and throughout Southeast Asia, assisting our clients in understanding the regulations governing GMOs for food, animal feed and industrial use as well as the rules for the collection of genetic samples under the Convention for Biological Diversity.  Our clients include biotechnology, food, feed and pharmaceutical companies.  Call us with your questions concerning Vietnam.

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