India Has Been Importing Genetically Modified Edible Oil Illegally, Says Union Govt
During the question hour in the Lok Sabha on December 29, 2017, the Union government admitted that the infamous genetically modified (GM) edible oil is being illegally imported to India.
The leader of Congress in the Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge asked whether various imported and other GM edible oils that are being consumed in India have been permitted for use. To which Union Health Minister JP Nadda said that since 2007 genetically modified edible oil is being illegally imported to India.
FSSAI did not permit
Nadda said that since 2007 various companies have been importing genetically modified soybean and canola oil for consumption in India after the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) of Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change permitted the import. However, the minister admitted that the Health Ministry’s apex body of food safety and regulation, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has not permitted import of any edible GM oil into the country.
The minister said that without the mandatory assessment of the GM edible oil for the safety of human consumption, it is being illegally imported into India. Violating the country’s Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, the import was done between 2007 to 2015 which allowed at least four companies to import the oil sourced from genetically modified crops which include Monsanto Holdings Private Limited and Bayer Bio Sciences Private Limited.
The minister said that the enforcement of provisions of Food Safety and Standard Act, 2006 rests with the states and UTs and it is their responsibility to monitor, inspect and test the imported food samples despite the Union government is the in-charge of the regulation safety of imported food in the country.
Nadda replying to another question asked by the MP– the action taken/being taken by FSSAI to stop sales of illegal GM foods in India said, “Enforcement of the provisions of Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, Rules and Regulations made there under primarily rests with the State/UT Governments. Regular surveillance, monitoring, inspection and sampling of food products are being done by the Officials of Food Safety Departments of the respective States and Union Territories to check compliance of the provisions laid down under Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 and Rules and Regulations made thereunder. In cases where the food samples are found to be non-conforming, recourse is taken to penal provisions under FSS Act, 2006. Directions have been issued by Food Safety and Standards Authority of India to State/UT Governments from time to time for taking steps for effective steps for implementation and enforcement of the FSS Act, Rules and Regulations made thereunder.”
What are Genetically modified crops, or GM crops?
Genetically modified crops are cultivated from seeds that are genetically altered to increase yields or tolerance to pests. Experts say that GM crops affect the biodiversity and impact the lives of a human when consumed whereas, the supporters claim that GM is very much essential at this point of time to meet with the ever-growing demand of the population.
In a report published by the Scroll in October last year revealed that by, “Violating laws governing food safety in India, the central government has over the last five years allowed more than 15 million tonnes of genetically modified soybean and canola oils to be imported into the country for human consumption.”
However, many countries including China, Australia, Japan and nations of European Union have strict rules for the GM foods. In India, it is still a matter of debate as to keep strict regulation on GM foods or not.