A government panel has said that even though India doesn't allow commercial cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops, its citizens are knowingly or unknowingly consuming GM processed foods.
According to the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, India’s food safety authorities have failed to “check on GM processed food and other items coming from outside the country or being produced here” in India.
The panel, which submitted its report to Lower House of the Parliament, put the blame for this on the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), which it said has failed miserably to check import of such products.
The panel gave an example of cotton-seed oil, which is produced in the country from Bt Cotton—the only genetically modified crop allowed for commercial production—that is widely used in India as cooking oil.
The panel, after submitting its report, asked the government to “investigate the matter without further loss of time.”
The panel’s findings comes in the background of the Ministry of Environment and Forest’s (MoEF) plans to keep on hold its 2007 notification, which allows the import of GM foods into India without its prior permission.
According to various reports and sources, the MoEF plans to extend this state of suspension for the notification for another three or six months, starting April 1, after the existing notification will expire on March 31.
This is in line with the Supreme Court of India’s direction at that time, which asked for the notification to be put on hold till it decides on the controversial issue of transgenic crops, which it begins hearing on April 14.
As per India’s current food safety laws, any genetically engineered organism can be imported only after the prior permission Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC).