Lightening Up on Lunch Restrictions

Article 23 of the School Health Act (SHA) prohibits schools from using raw or fresh foods that contain genetically modified (GM) ingredients and primary processed products. However, this provision, which was adopted in 2015 in the amended version of Article 23 of the SHA, prohibits schools from serving GM foods that have been fully accredited by the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW).

In its position paper in the American Chamber of Commerce’s recently published 2017 Taiwan White Paper, the Agro-Chemical Committee recommends revising SHA Article 23 to remove the ban on GM ingredients and primary processed products in school meals. In accordance with Article 7 of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Agreement of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (“the SPS Agreement”), member countries must notify the WTO of any changes in their SPS regulations. However, Taiwan implemented SHA Article 23, banning GM ingredients and primary processed products in school meals, without notifying the WTO’s SPS Committee and without going through the process for new regulations stipulated in the SPS Agreement. The SPS Agreement requires scientific evidence and the conduction of risk assessments for all SPS provisions that may affect international trade.

Article 23 of SHA bans many items that are allowed under the health risk assessment of GM ingredients, which was approved by the MOHW. The committee recommends removing the ban on GM ingredients and primary processed products in school meals and establishing scientific consultations and risk assessment mechanisms to ensure that Taiwan adheres to a science-based approach in setting regulations.

Furthermore, the committee maintains, “Article 23 of SHA discriminates against imported agricultural products as the supply of GM ingredients in Taiwan relies completely on import trade.” Thus, banning GM ingredients and primary processed products in school meals may constitute an import restriction that violates the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), of which Taiwan is a member. As the amendment directly impacts Taiwan’s import trade and violates Taiwan’s notification obligations to the WTO, the committee advises Taiwan to revise Article 23 and to follow WTO notification procedures before implementing any legislation concerning international trade.

To read the full Agro-Chemical position paper, click here.

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