Even though three months have passed since India’s transgenic products regulator gave the green light to the commercial production of GM mustard, the government has fallen back on its manifesto provision that it will only allow its production after “full scientific evaluation on its long-term effects on soil, production and biological impact on consumers”.
This change of approach means an effective “permanent hiatus” on GEAC’s plans after it had given the go-ahead to GM mustard in early May.
A final decision to allow the commercial planting of GM mustard would have been taken in October, pending a decision by the Supreme Court, which hinges on guidance from Delhi.
Speaking to Economic Times, environment minister Harsh Vardhan stated that the government had received a number of concerns from scientists, farmers and NGOs.
“The issues raised have been manifold, like long-term health and environmental impact, herbicide tolerance, loss to honey bees and pollinators, outperformance of native varieties, no enhancement in yields, etc. All these issues are under examination,” he said.
Vardhan’s comments represent a U-turn as the environmental ministry had been on the verge of giving its final nod for the commercialisation of GM Mustard.
At the same time, India’s food regulator, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India had finally begun mulling a regime of labelling GM foods, which does not currently exist in the country.
Genetically engineered mustard, developed by Delhi University’s Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (CGMCP), is said to be superior in its resistance to pests and diseases. Its backers also claim that it would provide better yields, require less pesticide and cultivate more environment-friendly practices.
Affiliates of Hindu pressure group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh have been at the forefront of opposition towards GM food crops. It is believed that their representations in particular have gained the ear of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, leading to the government’s caution.
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Mars acquires Tasty Bite’s American parent
Mars Foods will buy the American-based owner of Tasty Bite Foodservice (TFS), a manufacturer of all-natural, ready-to-heat Indian and Asian food products, for an undisclosed price.
Preferred Brands-owned TFS exports the majority of its products to the US, though it also enjoys a sizeable market in India supplying to leading food manufacturers and quick-service restaurants.
The subsidiary will continue to be listed on the BSE and National Stock Exchange following the acquisition.
Its portfolio includes a wide range of vegetarian offerings, including Indian and Asian entrees, spice-and-simmer meal kits, and organic rice and lentils.
Sales outside India and America are largely generated through retailers in Britain and Australia.
“Tasty Bite is a fast growing Indian/Asian dinner time brand,” said Mars Food global president Fiona Dawson. “Its broad range of dinner time products, focused on Indian and Asian cuisines, makes it a natural complement to our existing portfolio.”
“Upon closing the acquisition of Tasty Bite, Mars Food will expand our all-natural vegetarian offerings in the US, and leverage Tasty Bite's strong product development pipeline, flavour expertise, and strategic sourcing of quality ingredients throughout our portfolio.”