Come January 1, 2021, importers of 24 major food crops will have to mandatorily declare that the products are not genetically-modified and that they also have a non-GM origin.
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has come out with this order to ensure that only non-GM food crops come into the country.
The 24 food crops include apple, eggplant, maize, wheat, melon, pineapple, papaya, plum, potato, rice, soyabean, sugarbeet, sugarcane, tomato, sweet pepper, squash, flax seed, bean plum, and chicory.
Environmental groups have been complaining that imported foods often contain genetically modified organisms (GMO).
Stricter assessments at ports
The FSSAI is in the process of framing regulations on GM foods.
While a draft regulation on that is under consideration, the latest GM order, in the interim, is expected to tighten safety assessments of imported food crops at ports.
In an order released on Friday, the FSSAI said: “It has been decided that every consignment of these imported food crops shall be accompanied with a non-GM-origin-cum-GM-free certificate issued by the competent national authority of the exporting country.”
Importers will need to declare that the product is ‘of non-GM origin, does not contain genetically modified organism, and is also not genetically modified’.
The FSSAI order said this is being done to “ensure that only non-GM food crops are imported into India, pending framing of regulations related to genetically-engineered or modified” food products.
The implementation of the rule would call for extensive testing, said Kavitha Kuruganti of the Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture.
Will need extensive testing
“For the implementation of the order, the FSSAI needs to gear up by taking up widespread testing and also taking the assistance of alert citizens and by acting on complaints related to suspected GM,” Kuruganti said.
“This is a very important memo,” said agriculture expert Devinder Sharma. “It is remarkable that the FSSAI took this decision despite pressures from strong lobby groups. The list covers almost all major crops.” Sharma was referring to a recent campaign by an India-US business grouping to compel Delhi to allow 5 per cent transgenic component in agricultural commodities imported under a trade treaty.