Food safety agency starts framing GM food regulations after trace ingredients found

INDIA – The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) said it has started framing regulations for genetically modified (GM) food after trace in trace ingredients were found present in products.

According to FSSAI, the regulations covers procedures for safety assessment and approval of foods such as imported items that are genetically modified based on internationally recognized and scientific principles.

Following the agency’s approval, the regulations will be gazetted for stakeholder opinion then forwarded for acceptance by the government of India.

Prior to the approval of such foods, FSSAI would be in charge of the assessment of their food safety, while the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) of India’s Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change would assess aspects related to their environmental impact.

Import restrictions ineffective

FSSAI charged with ensuring consumer safety, has been accused of failing to restrict the import of genetically modified items in the range of infant formulas, even corn, soya, rapeseed and cotton (seeds).

According to the Centre for Science and Environment’s (CSE) Pollution Monitoring Laboratory of India, stores in Delhi, Punjab and Gujarat were found to be selling genetically-modified (GM) foods.

CSE claimed that out of 65 products tested, 21 were found to be GM-positive including cooking oil, packaged food and infant food while some of them claimed to be GM-free.

In India, GM foods cannot be manufactured, imported or sold in the country except under the Act and regulations made thereunder but no standards had been laid out to regulate them.

“The fact that every regulator and ministry has failed in the discharge of its responsibility shows a sinister and wilfully dangerous pattern that seeks to jeopardise and compromise on the health safety of citizens of India.

The Coalition for a GM-Free India now appeals to the Prime Minister of India to urgently intervene in the matter, to full the BJP Manifesto promise of 2014, and ensure that citizens are not subjected to the hazards of GM foods,” said the Coalition for a GM-Free India.

The coalition claimed that it had written to the food safety authority on the illegal import and sale of GM foods in India which were in violation the Food Safety and Standards Act on GM foods.

“The lack of action by FSSAI tells the citizens of this country that, as the food safety regulator, you are knowingly allowing this illegal proliferation of unpermitted and hazardous GM foods in the country,” said Kavitha Kuruganti, co-convenor, on behalf of the Coalition.

The regulations will be an addition to new labelling threshold announced by FSSAI (Labelling and Display) Regulations, 2018 that include mandatory labelling for packaged food items with 5% or more GM ingredients.

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