Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is chalking its final guidelines to roll out a norm which will force the processed food manufacturers to disclose the genetically modified (GM) content on its packaging label.
While addressing to the media, Pawan Agarwal, CEO, FSSAI said, “Genetically modified items are being used in a lot of processed foods. Consumers have the right to know which products may have GM items. The scientific panel has already started work on this, and we’ll soon finalise the labeling norms.”
Earlier this month, officials of FSSAI and members of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), which regulates GM foods in India, had a meeting on the issue. FSSAI has the responsibility of regulating GM products used in processed food but those GM products have to be approved by GEAC, according to the Food safety and Standards Act, 2006.
At present, companies are not required to declare presence of GM ingredients in a food item in India, and a lot of imported processed foods have GM items. GEAC had, in April, expressed concern on the absence of regulations on processed GM foods, Mint reported on 9 May.
Last month, GEAC had approved commercial cultivation of GM mustard in India which the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change will have to clear. To date, India allows commercial production of GM crop Bt cotton only. While Bt brinjal has the approval, the government did not introduce this due to widespread protests against the technology.
Till recently, India did not allow import of GM foods. In a written reply to the Lok Sabha last July, Nirmala Sitharaman, minister of state, ministry of commerce and industry, had said that the customs can clear GM food products after necessary approval by FSSAI, and the food regulator had not cleared import of any GM food. According to norms, import of GM foods requires prior approval from the GEAC.