Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador have signed agreements and resolutions stating that gene-edited crops that do not fulfill the definition of GMOs should be regulated as conventional crops. All three countries are actively discussing, harmonizing and deciding on a case-by-case basis how products of gene editing will be regulated.
In 2018, Honduras, Guatemala and 11 other nations, including Argentina, Australia, Brazil and the US, issued a joint statement to the World Trade Organization supporting more relaxed regulations for plant gene editing, stating that governments should “avoid arbitrary and unjustifiable distinctions” between crops developed through gene editing and crops developed through conventional breeding. The ministries agreed to avoid obstacles without a scientific basis for the commercialization of products improved by genome editing, exchange information about products’ developments and applicable regulations and explore opportunities for regional harmonization.
In 2019, the three countries signed an inter-ministerial agreement to streamline the research and commercialization of crops developed through biotechnology. The agreement requires that each country create a national advisory committee for the risk assessment evaluation of living modified organisms for agricultural use. The agreement also defines “novel combination of new genetic material”, setting the legal basis to define gene-edited products as conventional.
In 2019, Honduras published a resolution to establish a streamlined authorization procedure for crops developed using new breeding techniques (NBTs). El Salvador is expected to follow Honduras’ lead. Guatemala published an agreement in 2019 to create a simplified process for evaluation and registration of seeds that have been approved by other countries with commercial ties with Guatemala, outline procedures for evaluation and registration of novel seeds/plants, and exempt plants that do not have added DNA or a new combination of DNA from regulation. Although a legal appeal was submitted in 2019 requesting the Ministry of Economy to resolve an opposition, the Guatemala norms have not been suspended.
- Gene editing research in rice: University of Costa Rica researchers, in collaboration with other countries, are studying drought resistance in rice as a way to mitigate climate change effects and contribute to food security.
2019: Honduras publishes agreement to treat gene editing techniques as equivalent to conventional breeding.
2019: Guatemala publishes Acuerdo Ministerial No. 271, which creates a simplified process for evaluation and registration of seeds that have been approved by other countries with commercial ties with Guatemala, outlines procedures for evaluation and registration of novel seeds/plants, and exempts plants that do not have added DNA or a new combination of DNA from regulation, after the government verifies that they meet those conditions.
2019: Inter-ministerial agreement RT 65:06.01:18 between Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador proposes a streamlined system for the commercialization of crops developed through biotechnology, including a requirement that each country creates a national advisory committee, for the risk assessment evaluation of living modified organisms for agricultural use.
2018: Honduras, Guatemala and 11 other nations issue a joint statement supporting agricultural applications of precision biotechnology, stating that governments should “avoid arbitrary and unjustifiable distinctions between end products (crop traits) derived from precision biotechnology and similar end products, obtained through other production methods.”
2018: Draft genetic engineering regulation submitted to the World Trade Organization (WTO) by Guatemala and Honduras seeks to harmonize the testing and commercialization of genetically engineered plants and animals, but the regulation is not intended for innovative biotechnologies like gene editing. It is restrictive of all living modified organisms (LMOs) and requires a confined trial, field experimental trial, and a pre-commercial trial, before attempting a commercial release.
2018: Honduras publishes Guide of Processes and Procedures of the Regulatory System for “Genetically Modified Organisms,” which provides users with procedures to follow in field test, pre-commercial, and commercialization stages of production.
2018: El Salvador concludes GEF program to implement a regulatory framework for agricultural biotechnology, which includes guidelines for technical rulings regarding consumption of genetically engineered organisms (for direct use as human food, animal feed, or for processing).
2017: Honduras’ National Biotechnology and Agricultural Biosafety Committee is created (CNBBA) as part of the National Service of Agrifood Health and Safety (SENASA).
2014: Presidential Decree 207-2014, overseen by the Council of Protected Areas (CONAP), establishes the national policy on genetically engineered organisms, which acts as a disincentive to use biotechnology in agriculture and food production.
2008: Cartagena Protocol (an international agreement) ratified by Honduras, which protects the transport and use of organisms modified by biotechnology.
2008: El Salvador abolishes Article 30 of Planting Seed Law that requires imported seeds to have a certificate with an additional declaration stating that the seeds did not contain genetically engineered organisms.
2006: Guatemala publishes Ministerial Decree 386-2006, which allows for field trials and commercial seed exports of genetically engineered crops, but does not allow commercial production.
2004: Cartagena Protocol (an international agreement) ratified by Guatemala, which protects the transport and use of organisms modified by biotechnology.
2003: Cartagena Protocol (an international agreement) ratified by El Salvador, which protects the transport and use of organisms modified by biotechnology.
2001: El Salvador’s Planting Seed Law goes into effect, which prohibits the import, investigation, production and commercialization of genetically engineered seeds.
1998: Honduras passes Biosafety Regulation with Emphasis on Transgenic Plants, which requires the evaluation of possible health and environmental risks.
1998: El Salvador passes Environment Law, which provides regulations for environmental impact studies determining if genetically engineered organisms are harmful to the environment.
- Genetic Literacy Project’s FAQ on gene editing
- USDA Biotechnology Annual: Honduras
- USDA Biotechnology Annual: Guatemala
- USDA Biotechnology Annual: El Salvador
- The regulatory current status of plant breeding technologies in some Latin American and the Caribbean countries