Cracks in the system
Government agencies are passing the buck to evade responsibility
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.