Anti GM food campaigners say that FSSAI is trying to allow genetically modified foods through the backdoor by putting out a set of weak draft regulations. Activists object to FSSAI soliciting industry views even before asking citizens to provide their feedback on the draft rules.
India’s country’s apex food safety regulator, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), has introduced a set of draft regulations called the Food Safety and Standards (Genetically Modified or Engineered Foods) Regulations 2021 for objections and suggestions.
The regulations proposed by FSSAI will be applicable to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or genetically engineered organisms (GEOs) or living modified organisms (LMOs) intended for direct use as food or for processing. FSSAI also proposes to set standards for food or processed foods containing other genetically modified ingredients.
Food safety campaigners opposing genetic food say that FSSAI is trying to allow genetically modified foods through the backdoor by putting out a set of weak draft regulations.
For example, they say, FSSAI has not specified any testing regime that will allow the regulator to know whether some food is safe or not. Neither, they say, has FSSAI specified how it will keep out industry interests and other conflict of interest elements from creeping into decision-making.
Are GM foods safe?
“There is still no conclusive study establishing the safety of GM foods,” say Ananthoo, Rajesh Krishnan and Usha Soolapani, a trio describing themselves as sustainable agriculture and safe food enthusiasts. On the other hand, there are a number of studies on the adverse impacts on health and food safety.
Some studies have found GM foods caused health problems like allergies, immune system impairment, stunted growth and development, organ damage, reproductive health impacts and even pre-cancerous growths etc.
Once introduced, the standards will make India among a small handful of countries to have accepted GM food.
Have GM organisms entered the food chain in India?
So far, the only genetically modified crop allowed in India is Bt cotton, a GM pest resistant plant cotton variety that seed marketing companies claim combats the bollworm pest. Interestingly, cotton-seed oil obtained after ginning GM cotton is available in the market for human consumption, even though this is not allowed by law. Similarly, oilcake obtained as a by-product from the process of cottonseed oil production, is fed to milk-producing dairy cattle.
There has been resistance to cultivation of GM food crops in the country even though transnational seed marketing companies (and their Indian partners) have been knocking on the government’s doors for introducing Bt Brinjal and GM mustard for over a decade.
“This is about our health and the health of our children,” say Ananthoo, Rajesh and Usha who have also put up a petition on the subject on change.org.
In a separate letter to the FSSAI, the activists have objected to industry being asked to give its views even before citizens were asked to provide their feedback on the draft rules. All GM foods are unauthorised as of now, they say, citing FSSAI’s position in the Supreme Court.
Image for representative purposes only from Wikimedia.
By Feeuwai Nalmchonri Lami