More backtracking on food safety in India (2/10/2007)

More backtracking by Indian authorities:

1.Government hesitant on labelling genetically modified food
2.Government allows import of GM seed edible oil


1.Government hesitant on labelling genetically modified food
Financial Express , October 1 2007

New Delhi, Sep 30 The Union health ministry is reluctant to go ahead with its earlier proposal pertaining to a mandatory labelling of genetically modified (GM) food.

It has kept in abeyance the report of the expert committee headed by Shiv Lal, the additional director-general of the National Institute of Communicable Diseases.

In March this year, the Lal panel had recommended a mandatory labelling of both processed and unprocessed GM food and food ingredients produced in the country as well as those to be imported.

A senior official of the health ministry, when asked to comment on the future of the Lal panel report, said, "The labelling norms suggested by the panel are too stringent and difficult for implementation. We have not yet referred to the Central Committee of Food Standards." The health ministry had earlier proposed to amend the Prevention of Food Adulteration Rules, 1955 to include the provisions for mandatory labelling of GM food.

"Labelling of GM food is for giving consumers an informed choice. We had decided that all GM food irrespective of whether they are processed or unprocessed as well as the ingredients should be labelled," said Bejon Misra of the Voluntary Organisation in Interest of Consumer Education (VOICE). Misra was one of the panel members, along with other food analysts and experts.

The health ministry had set up the Lal panel in response to the provisions of the Foreign Trade Policy, 2006, which said that all imported GM products should be labelled.

The Foriegn Trade Policy, 2006 further said, "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."

Meanwhile the Union ministry of environment and forests has ensured free entry of processed GM food without any regulation by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee.


2.Government allows import of GM seed edible oil
Soumitra Trivedi / Ahmedabad, September 29 2007

The Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) has lifted the ban on the import of edible oils extracted from genetically modified oilseeds. This was stated in a letter to State Trading Corporation and MMTC on Friday.

The move allows import licence holders, under the Duty-Free Entitlement Certificate (DFEC) scheme for Target Plus and Status Plus schemes, to freely import edible oil derived from GM oilseeds.

Director of Foreign Trade RS Gujaral, who was in Ahmedabad on Friday said, "The restriction on the import of edible oil sourced from GM oilseeds has been removed. Earlier, the importers had to declare that the oil was not sourced from GM oilseeds."

But it was difficult to trace whether the oil was sourced from GM seeds. Seeing the increasing demand from exporters and the country’s requirement of imported edible oils, the import had been relaxed, he added.

The freeing of edible oil import would come as a boon for hundreds of licence holders to import GM oils. The licence would also plug the loopholes in the import norms, said B V Mehta, executive director, Solvent Extractors’ Association of India.

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