|Turf war as Indian govt sets up committee on GM food (4/8/2006)|
The reference in this article to pesticides in soft drinks is to a row in India over pesticide residues in Coca-Cola and Pepsi. The public outcry over this led the Indian government to form a parliamentary committee to investigate.
EXCERPT: The impact of Bt cotton on the financial health of the farmers has been documented. But what Bt brinjal and Bt potato will mean to human health has not been documented and to add to it, unseemly bickering between ministries over the issue conveys a degree of unseriousness over an issue of utmost public importance.
Govt sets up committee on GM food
(New Delhi): Even as controversy rages over pesticides in soft drinks, a new committee will look into what some consider another health hazard - genetically modified food.
The labelling of GM foods has been set up by the Health Ministry and the Parliament has just passed a new law which will set up one single authority to replace the existing arrangement where a number of ministries validate GM technology.
But politics once again has taken the centrestage, pushing the serious issue to the backseat.
Are soft drinks really safe? Or could they damage your health?
The same question is being asked about genetically modified or GM food like soyabean oil.
Last year, India imported 20 lakh tonnes from the USA, Argentina and Brazil. These are countries where genetically modified food is not banned and labelling is not compulsory.
The government has now set up a committee to ensure all GM food is labelled and consumers know exactly what they are eating or drinking. But members say labelling is not enough.
"This is a very tricky area where we do not even have the wherewithal to test how it impacts human health," said Bejon Mishra, Member, GM Food Labelling Committee.
The government has also proposed an integrated food and standards authority - a one-stop shop to clear GM food and technology, part of the 2005 Food Bill just passed by Parliament.
This is being currently done by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee of the Environment Ministry and has sparked off a turf war.
The Health Ministry, presently regulating the import of GM food, is unwilling to give up control. It has been backed by parliamentary committees as well as the Agriculture Ministry.
The matter has now gone to the Prime Minister's office, which wants the body to be autonomous. However, the Food Processing Ministry is unwilling to give up its claims.
"I think we have a claim over this. The commission should be under our jurisdiction," said Subodh Kant Sahay, MoS, Food Processing.
The impact of Bt cotton on the financial health of the farmers has been documented. But what Bt brinjal and Bt potato will mean to human health has not been documented and to add to it, unseemly bickering between ministries over the issue conveys a degree of unseriousness over an issue of utmost public importance.