EU Ag Chief Sees Increased Rice Imports from India if GM-free (10/3/2007)

1.EU Ag Chief Sees Increased Indian Rice Imports if GM-free
2.GM crops get a subsidy boost 
3.Genetically modified food set to be labelled in India before import

GM WATCH comment: The Government of India (GoI) may not be prepared to do much for its hard-pressed farmers, who in some cases have even been driven to suicide by the failure of GM cotton. But the GoI is happy, it seems, to dole out subsidies for GMOs. (item 2)

The GoI would doubtless punt GM crops as wealth producing, but even its own commerce ministry has pleaded for GMOs not to be grown in scores of farm export areas across the country for fear of the devastating economic impact of GM contamination witnessed by the US rice industry.

The commerce ministry's wisdom is made clear by an interview with European Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel. Fischer Boel says higher rice imports from India are a real possibility as long as they are not GM contaminated. (item 1)

INTERVIEW: EU Ag Chief Sees Increased Indian Rice Imports
Dow Jones, 6 March 2007

NEW DELHI (Dow Jones)--The European Union's rice imports from Asian countries such as India may increase after consignments from the U.S. were found to have traces of unauthorized genetic modification last year, European Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel said Tuesday.

"We have asked the U.S. to provide us with evidence that rice consignments to E.U. doesn't contain the unapproved genetic modification," Boel told Dow Jones Newswires in an interview. "(Such U.S. consignments) become more expensive and therefore the E.U. is also looking eastwards at other markets (to buy rice)."

India's rice exports to Europe are mostly restricted to basmati in husked or brown form, a type of rice famous for its aroma, grain length and cooking flavor but grown only in small pockets of the Indian subcontinent, including Pakistan.

Last year the E.U. placed control requirements on rice imports from the U.S. after shipments were found to contain an unauthorized biotech strain made by Bayer CropScience, a unit of German biochemical company Bayer AG (BAY).

That GM rice - Liberty Link 601 - has since been approved and is now considered "deregulated" by the USDA but the E.U. has zero tolerance for such rice.

India's rice exporters smell an opportunity in this development to ship non-Basmati rice to the E.U.

"I don't exclude that possibility (of higher rice imports from India) but they have to be...not low quality," Boel said.

She said the E.U. won't relax its quality controls on GM crops including rice from the U.S. as it will harm consumer interests.

"We have to be stringent to maintain confidence of the European consumers that when they buy something and it is not labeled, it is not derived from the GM product. This is crystal clear," said Boel.

Boel said since Basmati is unique to the Indian subcontinent there needs to be strict tests to ensure there is no contamination in its shipments to the E.U.

She said discussions are ongoing with Indian authorities with regards to testing of basmati.

India undertakes quality tests on Basmati consignments before they are shipped out of the country. However, Boel said the consignments need to be tested for authenticity in the E.U. as well.

"We are looking into the possibility to be able to verify the value of the quality tests in the E.U.," said Boel.

Brown basmati is subject to import tariff concessions because of its unique origin in the Indian subcontinent.

To a query about whether the E.U. will consider granting such concessions on non-Basmati rice and white rice as well, Boel said such requests from India could be negotiated upon as part of a proposed comprehensive trade and investment agreement with India.

The E.U. and India plan to negotiate a broadbased agreement on trade and investment under which import tariff on 90% of the commodities will be reduced to zero over a period of seven years.

"Of course I am sure India will defend heavily to include rice in such an agreement," said Boel.

2.GM crops get a subsidy boost 
Financial Express, March 10, 2007
NEW DELHI, MAR 9 :  To promote genetically modified (GM) crops in the country, the government has announced a special subsidy package. The National Horticulture Board in its recent document has announced backed-ended capital investment subsidy for projects developing genetic modified organisms (GMOs) and bio-technology.
The NHB has also proposed similar subsidy for high-density plantations, micro-propogation or tissue culture for mass production of "true-to types", hi-tech cultivation under controlled climatic conditions like poly-houses, green houses and net-houses, rainfed production through efficient water management techniques, nursery management for quality seed and planning material production, hybrid seed production, organic farming, hydroponics for year-round quality production and for use of plastics in horticulture.
Priority areas have also been defined to include export-oriented units, projects in cooperative sectors, projects in Northeast, and those involving women entrepreneurs. No GM horticulture crops have so far been approved for commercial cultivation, while a number of them are in the pipeline.
Exporters have expressed apprehensions that the introductions of GM food crops are likely to affect exports.
Speaking to FE, executive director, Centre for International Trade in Agriculture Agro-based Industries (CITA), Vijay Sardana, said: "The government should formulate a uniform policy on genetic modified organisms, taking into consideration their trade aspects. A public interest litigation is pending before the Supreme Court and the apex court has imposed a temporary ban on any fresh approval of GM crop trials. The commerce ministry has already asked the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) not to approve field trials of GM crops in agri export zones. All these point to the need for a clear-cut policy on genetic modified organisms."

Genetically modified food set to be labelled in India before import
Ashok B Sharma
Financial Express, March 07, 2007

NEW DELHI - The health ministry is set to amend the Prevention of Food Adulteration Rules, 1955 to introduce the provision of mandatory labelling of genetically modified (GM) foods, likely to be imported or produced in the country. 

An expert committee set up by the ministry under the chairmanship of the additional director-general of the National Institute of Communicable Diseases, Shiv Lal has recommended mandatory labelling of GM food and food ingredients, without any threshold limit. The committee has defined GM food as those composed of or containing genetically organisms obtained through modern biotechnology. Even the GM processed food would be labelled. The expert panel included representatives from the industry, Indian Council for Medical Research and farmer leader Yudhvir Singh.

The move has been initiated to fulfill the provisions of the foreign trade policy 2006, which said that all imported GM products should be labelled. If the consignment does not contain such a label and is later found to contain traces of GM material, the importer is liable for penal action under the Foreign Trade (Development & Regulation) Act, 1992.

Since the formulation of the policy in 2006, the regulator, genetic engineering approval committee (GEAC), was in a fix to regulate the imports of GM soybean oil. GEAC was awaiting the guidelines being framed by the health ministry. Since the work of the health ministry was delayed, the commerce ministry deferred the implementation of foreign trade policy norms.

So far, no GM food product has been approved for consumption in the country. Bt cotton is the only non-food GM crop to be approved. GEAC is the sole regulator for production, transportation, distribution, import and export of all GM products.

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