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US and FSSAI Lock Horns Over the Safety of GM Foods

Shipra Singh
Shipra Singh
GM foods

India says GM foods are not safe. US says they are safe. According to the US, India should do risk assessment on GM foods. Actually, the US is looking forward to technical cooperation with FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) to create alternatives to non-GM origin and GM free certificates mandated by India.  

The US seeks to withdraw or delay in the order implementation until viable alternatives are developed. The US proposed technical cooperation on January 27, 2021, with an optimism that the FSSAI will agree upon it.  

On March 1, 2021, Washington had put forward a request to India to withdraw the mandatory certificate. In case India does not withdraw, it should atleast delay the order to January 2022. This will lead to a better technical engagement between traders and the FSSAI.  

What is the FSSAI order? 

In August 2020, the FSSAI had released an order stating that each consignment consisting of 24 identified food items like fruits, vegetables, and foodgrains, must accompany a non-GM-origin-cum-GM-free certificate, which is issued by the National Authority of the exporting nation.  

The order was supposed to come to effect on January 1, 2021, but is now delayed by three months.  

The US now wants it to be delayed by 2022.  

edible oil

How did this order come into existence? 

In 2018, the Center for Science and Environment had conducted a research and study that revealed about 32% samples of food items like edible oils, infant foods, and processed and packaged foods, produced locally and those imported, to be “contaminated” by GM ingredients. What was more worrying was that about 46% of the imported items contains GM ingredients.  

The US, in this regard, argued that GM (genetically modified) or GD (genetically engineered) foods are not harmful.  

The US backs its argument by referring to the reports by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the National Academy of Science and the international scientific community that had come to a unanimous conclusion that GE products available in the global market are as safe as their traditional counterparts. In this regard, the US pointed out that India is yet to do a risk assessment to prove that GE foods were not safe or less safe.  

The FSSAI has established 1% tolerance for presence of GE in imported food items. The US has requested India to provide a scientific basis or any international standard on this tolerance level.  

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