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GEAC under Pressure to Vet GM Food Imports
Ashok B Sharma
Financial Express,
June 26 2008

The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) [India's apex GM regulator] is now under pressure to check illegal imports of GM food. Greenpeace India has revealed that the Dorito's Cool Ranch Corn chips manufactured by Frito Lays Inc for US Pepsico and imported into the country contained GM ingredients.
The GEAC in its 86th meeting. on Wednesday, spent considerable time on deliberating on this issue. Greenpeace was specially invited to present its findings and tests it had conducted through an independent laboratory in Germany on imported food picked up randomly from a super market store in Delhi.
The analytical report from Eurofins (Gene Scan) submitted by Greenpeace India revealed that the corn chips had the presence of GM ingredients like Roundup Ready Soybean in addition to MaxGard Maize (MON-863) and Roundup Ready (NK-603) Maize. "We noted that the analytical report indicated the limit of detection (LoD) of the method is 0.01%. It does not indicate the percentage of GM content in the sample," said one senior official of the GEAC.
The GEAC decided that it would conduct further tests on the imported samples through an independent agency.
India has so far approved only GM cotton for commercial cultivation and not any other crops. Hence, commercial presence of any GM food in the country is illegal. Illegal imports of GM food is in violation of the Rules, 1989 of the Environment Protection Act, 1986. The annual amendments to the Foreign Trade Policy made in April 2006 clearly said that no GM products which are not properly labeled as such should be imported. The Union commerce ministry also issued a notification that violation of provision by importers would attract penal action under Foreign Trade (Development and Regulation) Act, 1992.
However, the implementation order was withheld on the pretext that appropriate guidelines for implementation need to be approved. The Union ministry of health took the initiative in forming a core group of stakeholders to finalise the guidelines.
The core group already submitted its report on mandatory labeling of GM food within a year and the government has not yet taken any decision on the group's recommendations. In the previous year, the GEAC gave its approval to the imports of oils extracted from GM soybeans without any label and restrictions.
A new Food Safety and Standards Authority has been set up after the enactment of a new law. But the authority is yet to become functional - till date it has no members, but only a chairman. Hence, as of now, it is the responsibility of GEAC and the health ministry under PFA Act to regulate illegal GM food.
Greenpeace India in this context has asked for immediate recall of illegal GM food in the market to prevent any health or environmental hazards.

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