The Genetically Modified Organisms (Control of Release) Ordinance, Cap. 607

The Ordinance

The Genetically Modified Organisms (Control of Release) Ordinance, Cap. 607 (the Ordinance), gives effect to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity to control the release into the environment and the transboundary movement of living genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and provide for related matters.

Living organisms are defined as any biological entity capable of transferring or replicating genetic material, including sterile organisms, viruses and viroids. GMOs are living organisms that possess a novel combination of genetic material obtained through the use of modern biotechnology which include the application of in vitro nucleic acid techniques (such as recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and direct injection of nucleic acid into cells or organelles), or techniques involving the fusion of cells beyond the taxonomic family, that overcome natural physiological reproductive or recombination barriers and are not techniques used in traditional breeding and selection. GMOs cover a variety of food crops (such as BT corn, anti-frost tomatoes and herbicide-tolerance soya beans), GM seeds, GM fish, GM flowers, etc. However, GMOs do not include non-living food products produced from GM crops, such as corn oil, soymilk and polished rice. They also do not include living organisms with genetic material altered through traditional breeding and selection techniques (e.g. hybrid rice and golden sweet maize).

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GMOs are regulated according to their intended uses, including:

GMOs intended for direct consumption as food or feed, or for processing (GMOs-FFP), such as virus-resistant papaya fruit, herbicide-resistant soy bean and BT maize;
GMOs intended for contained use, such as GM micro-organisms cultured in laboratories, transgenic plants growing in greenhouses and knock-out transgenic mice kept in cages; and
GMOs intended for release into the environment, such as seeds of GM crops to be sown on farmlands, experimental GM plants to be planted on open fields, and cut flowers of GM variety to be displayed in open area.
The Ordinance does not apply to or in relation to a GMO that is a pharmaceutical product for use by human beings.

The Ordinance ordains the following controls on GMOs in Hong Kong:

Restrictions on Release into Environment and Maintenance of Lives of GMOs

No one is not allowed to release a GMO into the environment, import a GMO intended for release into the environment or maintain the life of a GMO that is in a state of being released into the environment, unless:

the GMO has been approved and any condition for the approval has been complied with; or
the GMO has been exempted by the Secretary for the Environment from the restriction and any condition for the exemption has been complied with.
These restrictions do not apply to or in relation to a GMO that is in transit or transhipment. For detailed approval application process, please refer to the Guidelines for GMO Approval Application.

The approval will apply to all subsequent releases, after the GMO is approved and entered in the GMOs Register (www.afcd.gov.hk/gmo). There may be conditions attached to the approval. You may search the GMOs Register for the list of approved GMOs and the conditions for the approvals, before making an application or releasing a GMO into the environment of Hong Kong.

Contravention to the above restrictions commits an offence and is liable to a fine of HK$100,000 and to imprisonment for one year.