CAIRO Any agricultural imports to Egypt must have a certificate from the country of origin that the product is not genetically modified and the rule will also apply to Egyptian exports, the official news agency said on Wednesday.
The debate in Egypt over food quality has become politically heated after some Russian wheat was rejected over quality concerns. Members of parliament have been calling for stricter rules and greater agricultural self sufficiency.
Traders expressed surprise at the move, saying some of Egypt's main food imports at the moment included genetically modified products.
Officials could not independently confirm the decision by Agriculture Minister Amin Abaza, as reported by the official news agency MENA.
Abaza was quoted as saying that "it was necessary that all crops imported from abroad and exported from Egypt be accompanied by a certificate from the country of origin stating they are free of genetically modified materials."
"No agricultural products especially wheat, corn and soya bean would enter except after examining samples from the cargo," MENA reported him as saying.
Egypt is one of the world's largest wheat importers and also imports other products such as corn, edible oils and sugar. It exports products such as vegetables and fruits particularly to Europe.
"A non-GMO policy would not cause difficulties for sunflower oil but it would for soyoil," one European trader said.
"It would mean that soyoil imports would only be possible from Brazil and not from the U.S. or Argentina," he said.
The three countries are the world's largest soyoil exporters.
The trader added it would be "immensely difficult to give a guarantee that Brazilian soyoil is GMO free as Brazil also has large GMO production and it is certainly possible that GMO soybeans could be mixed with non-GMO beans."
Wheat is GMO-free and buying GMO free corn would be possible, with supplies available from the Black Sea region, another trader said.
(Additional reporting by Michael Hogan in Hamburg; editing by James Jukwey)