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‘Not Genetically Modified’ label must for imported food crops: FSSAI

FSSAI sanctioned an issue according to which all imported food crops need to be labelled as 'not genetically modified' to keep a check on the food crops being imported. As consumers are becoming more aware, genetically modified foods are a matter of concern for them. Strict assessments and testing on ports will ensure that no GM food crops are imported in the country.

Genetically modified (GM) food crops have raised concerns among consumers about environmental and health effects on humans and animals. As a result, many countries require compulsory labeling of products that contain GM ingredients (inputs). This is absolutely necessary where the percentage reaches a certain threshold.

With effect from January 1, 2021, importers would have to declare that the imported food crops are not modified genetically (non-GM). They also have to ensure that the food does not have a non-genetically modified origin (non-GMO). Food Safety and Standards Authority of India(FSSAI) sanctioned this issue.

FSSAI decided to issue this order to ensure that India imports only the non-genetically modified food crops.

The list they released includes 24 food crops:

apple, eggplant, maize, wheat, melon, pineapple, papaya, plum, potato, rice, soybean, sugarbeet, sugarcane, tomato, sweet pepper, squash, flaxseed, bean plum, and chicory.

Rising concerns against Genetically Modified food crops

Environmental groups have complained that imported foods often contain genetically modified organisms (GMO). Therefore, FSSAI sanctioned this issue.

The prevalence of genetically modified organisms ( GMOs) continues to rise. Consequently, information on the safety of these products has been increasing the public’s interest. Concerns are usually about how GMOs can affect the environment or how they can affect the consumer. One particular concern is the possibility that GMOs could have a negative effect on human health. This could result from differences in nutritional content, allergic response, or undesired side effects such as toxicity, organ damage, or gene transfer.

Assessments at ports-now stricter

FSSAI is also in the process of drafting regulation for genetically modified foods.

They are discussing a proposal for a regulation. Also, the new GM order will likely tighten safety evaluations of imported food crops at ports in the interim.

In an order released on Friday, the FSSAI said, “It has been decided that every consignment of these imported food crops shall be accompanied with a non-GM-origin-cum-GM-free certificate issued by the competent national authority of the exporting country.”

The importers, hence, need to declare that the products are ‘of non-GM origin, not having genetically modified organisms, and not genetically modified.’

The FSSAI order aims to “ensure that only non-GM food crops are imported into India, pending framing of regulations related to genetically-engineered or modified” food products.

The implementation of the rule would call for extensive testing, said Kavitha Kuruganti of the Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture.

Extensive Testing Required

“For the implementation of the order, the FSSAI needs to gear up by taking up widespread testing and also taking the assistance of alert citizens and by acting on complaints related to suspected GM,” Kuruganti said.

Agriculture expert Devinder Sharma, “This is a very important memo. It is remarkable that the FSSAI took this decision despite pressures from strong lobby groups. The list covers almost all major crops.”

Sharma was, in fact, referring to a recent campaign by an India-US business grouping. This compelled Delhi to allow a 5 percent transgenic component in agricultural commodities imported under a trade treaty.

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