July 27, 2018
A recent study Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has exposed the fact that despite the ban on production of genetically modified (GM) food, it has become an inherent part of the Indian platter. According to the study genetically modified ingredients are widely present in packaged food items sold in India.
Import of GM seeds and production of food items, research and development of GM crops is banned in India. Currently, the Environment Protection Act (EPA) strictly prohibits import, export, transport, manufacture, process, use or sale of any genetically engineered organisms except with the approval of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) under the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change.
CSE furthermore faults the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) for the lapse as the regulator has not allowed any GM food on paper, but has failed to curb its illegal sales. However, according to Pawan Agarwal, chief executive officer, FSSAI, sales or imports of GM positive food items are not illegal in the country and currently, there are no laws under purview that prohibits use of GM ingredients in packaged food.
Anyhow food products like edible oils processed and packaged food and infant food items that are either locally produced or imported were found to contain genetically modified ingredients. While 32 per cent samples tested GM-positive, the rate went up sharply to 80 per cent for imported products. Also, 21 of 65 items tested had GM ingredients in them and 18 of them were imported.
CSE found that most GM foods did not reveal the fact on the label and also a few made false claims of being GM-free. About 65 per cent of the samples that were found GM-positive did not disclose its genetically modified ingredients.
Big Companies like Abbott and General Mills were found to be marketing GM foods. Two products by Abbott Laboratories, the American healthcare company, were found to be GM-positive. While one was for lactose-intolerant infants, the other was a hypoallergenic product. Both products were without any warning about their GM nature. Imported packed food items such as crispy corn snacks and corn puffs — distributed by General Mills Inc, USA — are GM-positive. While in India, five GM-positive items belonged to cotton seed oil brands such as Ankur, Ginni, Tirupati and Vimal.
A GM crop is developed through inserting the DNA of another creature into the targeted plant’s DNA for the purpose of enhancing its productivity and/or increase its immune power.