Firms to dis­close GM con­tents in pro­cessed food

Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur) - - World - Sounak Mi­tra sounak.m@livemint.com

Pack­aged food com­pa­nies will soon have to dis­close de­tails of ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied (GM) in­gre­di­ents used in pro­cessed food on la­bels.

The coun­try’s food reg­u­la­tor, Food Safety and Stan­dards Author­ity of In­dia (FSSAI), is work­ing on the fi­nal guide­lines on the la­belling of GM foods, its CEO Pawan Ku­mar Agar­wal said.

“Ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied items are be­ing used in a lot of pro­cessed foods. Con­sumers have the right to know which prod­ucts may have GM items. The sci­en­tific panel has al­ready started work on this, and we’ll soon fi­nalise the la­belling norms,” said Agar­wal.

Ear­lier this month, of­fi­cials of FSSAI and mem­bers of the Ge­netic En­gi­neer­ing Ap­praisal Com­mit­tee (GEAC), which reg­u­lates GM foods in In­dia, had a meet­ing on the is­sue.

FSSAI has the re­spon­si­bil­ity of reg­u­lat­ing GM prod­ucts used in pro­cessed food but those GM prod­ucts have to be ap­proved by GEAC, ac­cord­ing to the Food Safety and Stan­dards Act, 2006.

Com­pa­nies are now not re­quired to de­clare the pres­ence of GM in­gre­di­ents in a food item in In­dia, and a lot of im­ported pro­cessed foods have such in­gre­di­ents.

Last month, GEAC ap­proved com­mer­cial cul­ti­va­tion of GM mus­tard in In­dia which the min­istry of en­vi­ron­ment, for­est and cli­mate change will have to clear. To date, In­dia only al­lows com­mer­cial pro­duc­tion of GM Bt cot­ton. While Bt brin­jal has the ap­proval, the govern­ment did not in­tro­duce this due to wide­spread protests against the tech­nol­ogy.

Till re­cently, In­dia did not al­low im­port of GM foods. In a writ­ten re­ply to the Lok Sabha last July, com­merce min­is­ter Nir­mala Sithara­man had said that the cus­toms can clear GM food prod­ucts af­ter nec­es­sary ap­proval by FSSAI, and the food reg­u­la­tor had not cleared im­port of any GM food. Ac­cord­ing to norms, im­port of GM foods re­quires prior ap­proval from the GEAC.

In a sep­a­rate de­vel­op­ment, FSSAI al­lowed im­port of 72 spe­cial food items meant for chil­dren with ‘in­born er­rors of me­tab­o­lism’ last week. These food items can only be con­sumed un­der the su­per­vi­sion of health­care pro­fes­sion­als.

MINT/FILE

Pawan Agar­wal: New rules

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