Cracks in the sys­tem

Gov­ern­ment agen­cies are pass­ing the buck to evade re­spon­si­bil­ity

Down to Earth - - COVER STORY -

Since 1989, the Ge­netic En­gi­neer­ing Ap­praisal Com­mit­tee (GEAC) under the Union en­vi­ron­ment min­istry has been re­spon­si­ble for ap­prov­ing cul­ti­va­tion of GM crops and the man­u­fac­ture, im­port and sell­ing of pro­cessed foods made from GM in­gre­di­ents Af­ter the en­act­ment of the Food Safety and Stan­dards Act, 2006, GEAC wanted to re­strict it­self to approval of liv­ing mod­i­fied or­gan­isms (LMOs) and shift the task of approval of pro­cessed foods to the Food Safety Stan­dards Au­thor­ity of In­dia (FSSAI). A no­ti­fi­ca­tion in this re­gard was is­sued in 2007 In re­sponse, the Union health min­istry re­quested the en­vi­ron­ment min­istry to con­tinue reg­u­lat­ing pro­cessed foods un­til FSSAI was ready to do so in a sci­en­tific man­ner The no­ti­fi­ca­tion was kept in abeyance un­til 2016, mak­ing GEAC re­spon­si­ble for ap­provals of pro­cessed foods, with no ac­count­abil­ity of FSSAI in prac­tice. This is de­spite Sec­tion 22 of the FSS Act which states that GM foods shall not be man­u­fac­tured, sold, dis­trib­uted, im­ported un­til FSSAI reg­u­lates them In 2013, the Le­gal Metrol­ogy (Pack­aged Com­modi­ties) Rules, 2011 were amended to man­date la­belling of pack­ages con­tain­ing GM foods with the term "GM" on top of the prin­ci­ple dis­play panel. This rule is in­con­sis­tent as GM foods are not al­lowed in In­dia. In fact, it has cre­ated the false per­cep­tion that GM food is al­lowed FSSAI issues new draft la­belling reg­u­la­tion in March 2018 that seeks to la­bel GM foods. A fi­nal no­ti­fi­ca­tion is due.

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