CSE (Centre for Science and Environment), India's leading environment organisation has done a study and found that more than 20 packaged genetically modified (GM) food products are being sold openly in the market to unsuspecting consumers.
This is when the government itself has said that it has not approved food products and that no long-term safety assessment on impact of GM Foods has been done. BJP had promised in 2014 election manifesto that it would not allow such GM foods. GM negatively impacts farmers, consumers, climate, children, trees and wildlife (with genetically modified trees and animals coming in!) and displays institutional corruption.
These GM foods sold in market illegally include infant food, canola/cottonseed oil, Kellogg's multigrain cereal, popcorn snacks, tofu amongst others. Complaints have been made to multiple government bodies earlier.
To raise a voice on this and demand accountability/action from government, a Pan-India twitter action has been planned on 27th July from 3-6 pm under the hashtag #StopGMFood
Foods produced from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are referred to as genetically modified (GM) foods. The safety of GM foods has been a matter of concern. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has not allowed GM foods in India so far.
To understand whether GM foods are available in the Indian market, the Pollution Monitoring Laboratory (PML) at the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) tested 65 imported and domestically produced processed-food samples. Testing involved qualitatively screening for the presence of GM DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) through the qPCR (quantitative polymerase chain reaction). The food samples were made from or likely to contain ingredients from soya, corn, rapeseed or cottonseed and were a mix of oils, packaged foods, infant foods and protein supplements.
Overall, 32% of the food product samples tested were GM positive. Forty-six per cent of imported food products tested positive. These were made of or used soya, corn and rapeseed and were imported from Canada, the Netherlands, Thailand, the UAE, and the US. About 17% of the samples manufactured in India tested positive. All of these were of cottonseed oil. Out of the 20 GM-positive packaged samples (excluding crude cottonseed oil), 13 did not mention use of GM ingredients on their labels. Some brands had claims on their labels suggesting that they had no GM ingredients but were found to be GM positive.
56% of oil samples—including canola oil (rapeseed) imported from Canada and the UAE, and Indian cottonseed oil—tested positive. Twenty-five per cent of packaged food samples were positive. All of these were imported samples and most were corn-based from the US. Two infant food samples imported from the US and the Netherlands also tested GM positive.
CSE has recommended that in the interest of public health and informed consumer choice, the FSSAI take the following necessary actions at the earliest:
• Identify all illegal GM foods, ensure that they are not available in the Indian market and take necessary legal action against concerned companies and traders.
• Set up a stringent system for approving domestically produced and imported GM food products based on safety assessments.
• Enact ‘GM labelling laws with stringent exemption limit, clear symbol-based depiction of GM label and qualitative screening as an enforcement tool.
• Set up laboratories for testing GM foods.
â€œThe FSSAIâ€™s job is to ensure safe food to Indian consumers. Currently, there are no laws under our purview that prohibits use of GM ingredients in packaged food,â€ he said.
GM foods are safe. The cottonseed oil that we eat is all made from genetically-modified Bt cotton. The cottonseed oil meal that is fed cattle is also from Bt cotton. Canola oil is all rapeseed imported from Canada. Oils being fatty acids do not contain GM proteins. But de-oiled cake does. The EU and Japan do not allow cultivation of GM crops but feed GM soybean oil meal to their cattle, fish and poultry. We must be wary of scare-mongering NGOs like CSE. Earlier it made a brouhaha about pesticide residues in MNC colas. The traces were so minute they would not have affected our health.