In 2005 Saudi Arabia approved the import of GM food, but banned the import and agricultural use of genetically modified animals, their byproducts and GM seeds, dates and decorative plants. The law also stipulated that any product containing GM material was required to be labeled in both Arabic and English.
In the 2013 study, 200 samples were collected from the Saudi Arabian provinces of Al-Qassim, Riyadh and Mahdina between 2009 and 2010 and were screened for GM ingredients. 26% of soybean samples were positive for GM gene sequences, while 44% of maize samples came out positive for GM gene sequences.
The overall findings pointed to a discovery of more than 1% contamination of maize samples with StarLink maize, as according to the detection sensitivity of the test kits used in the research the likelihood of a false positive reading is extremely low.
The authors of the report conclude that “establishing strong regulations and certified laboratories to monitor GM foods or crops in the Saudi Market is recommended.”
An earlier study published in the African Journal of Food Science in 2010 also found that the food chain in Saudi Arabia had been contaminated with GM ingredients.
The study analyzed 202 samples of mainly imported food, which was sampled from local markets in Ridyadh. Of the 202 samples 20 tested positive for GM ingredients.
The authors of the 2013 finding raise questions of why GM corn, banned in the US is resurfacing in a distant country like Saudi Arabia. They also question the level of contamination in the US, considering the fact the labeling and import of GM products is more stringent in Saudi Arabia than in the states.
“Mandatory labeling of GM-containing products and/or a total boycott of manufactures who are not already complying with this objective, or do not already have plans to do so in the immediate future,” the study concludes.