Mauritius is a small island of 1,965 square kilometres with a relatively high standard of living and has been recently classified as a high human development country by the UNDP. With an estimated population of about 1.3 million as at 2013 for the whole republic, it has become a middle-income country and one of the most competitive in Africa (WTO, 2014). The contribution of agriculture in the economy has decreased over the years from a monocrop economy to 16% in 1983, 6% in 2000 and 5.7 in 2011 (SCO annual digest, 2012).
Since its independence in 1968, Mauritius has transformed its economy and the main pillars of the economy are tourism, textile, financial services and recently information technology, sea food hub, hospitality sector and property development, renewable energy, education and training have emerged. Clothing, textile, fishery products and sugar are the main exported goods and the EU is Mauritius' principal export market; while oil and food products are the main imported products, mainly sourced from the EU, India and China. Mauritius is a net food importer.
The Ministry of Agro-Industry and Food Security is responsible for the development of agriculture and the promotion of agro industry focusing on food safety, supply, quality, innovation and new technology through its service providing institutions, parastatals and stakeholders of the region. One important role is the management of Genetically Modified Organisms and Biosafety Issues.
Mauritius was the first signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 1992. Upon adhering to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, Mauritius required new legal and regulatory structures in order to implement the various clauses of the Cartagena Protocol. Legal frameworks to risk assessments, for the development and application of biotechnologies were needed to ensure human and environment safety. Thus, Mauritius has drafted a Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) Act which was passed in the National Assembly in April, 2004 to cater for GMO issues.
Structure for GM food safety assessment:
Contact details of the competent authority(s) responsible for the safety assessment and the product applicant:
4.1 Legislations and regulations:
4.1.1 Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) Act:
Mauritius has drafted a GMO Act to cater for GMO issues. Enacted in 2004,the GMO Act provides for measures to regulate the responsible planning, application, development, production, use and commercialization of GMOs. It became in force in January 2005 but only sections 1 to 5, 6 (1) a to (c) and 24 were proclaimed.The Ministry of Agro-Industry and Food Security is the responsible Ministry for the Act.
The key provisions of the GMO Act are as follows:
1. Every GMO or its derivatives (without any exception), for the use, market, produce, release into the environment, transit, import or export requires a permit.
2. Every application for a permit must be accompanied by a risk assessment report and contingency plan.
3. The application is to be made to the Permanent Secretary who makes the final decision. The National Biosafety Committee makes an evaluation of the risk assessment.
4. In examining any application, the NBC shall take into account (a) direct or indirect effects on the environment and human and animal health and (b) social and economic effects on people and society.
5. Clear provisions are included for suspension of permits.
6. The protection of confidential information is provided for, but access to certain information is guaranteed- beyond that which the Biosafety Protocol guarantees.
7. Mandatory labelling and identification of any GMO and its derivatives.
The GMO Act also establishes the National Biosafety Committee (NBC)which has the main objective of advising the Ministry on all aspects pertaining to GMOs and constituting of a Chairperson appointed by the Minister and representatives of various Ministries. Cabinet decisionwas taken on 18 March 2005 to set up the NBC to advise the Ministry of Agro-Industry & Food Security on aspects of importation, exportation, transit, development, research, production, use, application, sale and release of GMOs and any other matter concerning GMOs that may be referred to it. The NBC has to publish guidelines and a code of practice with the approval of the Minister for all uses of GMOs, encourage public participation in decision-making while maintainingconfidentiality of information, act as advisory committee to the Permanent Secretary in emergency cases and provide appropriate recommendations after examining applications received for GMO permit.However, at the time of proclamation of the mentioned sections of the Act, there were no supporting regulations.
A technical working group was set up under the chairmanship of the Chairperson of the National Biosafety Committee and comprising representatives of the Ministry of Agro-Industry & Food Security, FAREI, MSIRI, State law Office, Association des Consommateursde l’Ile Maurice to work on the relevant regulations which were submitted to the State Law Office for vetting. However, there is need to set up necessary independent scientific and technical support teams, for example, to back the committee to examine risk assessments for permit approval.
4.1.2 Food Act (1998) and Food Regulations (1999)
The second legislation that pertains to GMOs in food is the Food regulations of 1999 issued under the Food Act of 1998 under the purview of the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life. It specifies in Part 1, section 3 (m) regarding food composition and labeling requirements of pre-packed food that it is prohibited to import, manufacture, process, pack, store, offer for sale or sell any pre-packed food without conspicuous labeling in English or French that the food has been obtained as result of genetic modifications or that the food contains any ingredient that is genetically modified.
4.1.3 The Environment Protection Act (2002)
The Environment Protection Act of 2002 also stipulates that the development, production, release, use, marketing and application of GMOs warrant an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Licence.
4.1.4 The Plant Protection Act (2006)
Under this legislation, the National Plant Protection Office (NPPO) is set up to establish phytosanitary measures for the import and export of all plants, plant products and regulated articles including GMOs whereby any person exporting or importing a plant, plant product or other regulated article need to apply for a phytosanitary certificate from the NPPO. These products can be released only upon inspection and approval of the NPPO.
4.2 National capacity to implement the Cartagena Protocol
4.2.1 Laboratory facilities:In Mauritius, there are some laboratories capable of carrying out GMOtesting, for example the Bio-molecular Laboratory of the Food Technology Laboratory (FTL) which falls under the aegis of the Ministry of Agro-Industry & Food Security, the Faculty of Agriculture of the UOM and the Biotechnology Department of the MCIA.
Since 2012, two Divisions of the FTLhave been accredited by the local accreditation body, the Mauritius Accreditation Services (MAURITAS) for selected microbiological and chemical parameters. The Bio-molecular laboratory is a new unit and is now equipped to carry out GMO detection. Officers have already been selected to be posted to this laboratory and some have also been supported to follow relevant trainings. The laboratory is expected to be operational early this year and to start the implementation of a quality management system based on ISO 17025.
Under a UNEP/GEF project to establish a transparent and workable national biosafety framework for Mauritius with the assistance of a local Project Coordinator, capacity building was engaged at the Bio-molecular laboratory of the FTL and several stakeholders were trained in GMO detection in 2009 and 2010.
4.2.2 Risk assessment: Presently, the country does not have the capacity to perform related risk assessment exercise and there is need to train a pool of experts in the field.
Production and trade
GM food/feed production:
GM food/feed imports:
Supplemental information on the production and trade:
Supplemental information on the LLP/AP incidents:
Supplemental information on the Labelling requirement:
Relevant links to documents and information prepared by the competent authority responsible for the safety assessment