Farmers’ body Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) has raised objections to the FSSAI’s proposed draft regulations on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) & Engineered Food and demanded its withdrawal arguing that it was yet another attempt by the body to bring in “unsafe and unwanted” GM food into India. 

“The weak regulations allow for backdoor entry of GMOs. Basing decisions in India on approvals given elsewhere is a complete mockery of the regulator’s responsibility to evolve regulation as per our own needs and requirements,” BKU pointed out in a submission made to the FSSAI this week.

The FSSAI released the draft regulations in November 2021, proposing that food products or food ingredients derived from GMOs may be sold in the country after obtaining prior approval. It laid down the procedure for prior approval as well as safety assessment and labelling norms. It specified norms that labs will need to adhere for testing GM foods.

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The FSSAI had sought stakeholder views on the draft proposals. India, at present, does not allow GM food in the country.

Some of India’s trade partners, especially the US, have been raising concerns over the FSSAI order mandating non-GM origin and GM-free certification for import of 24 identified food crops, including apples, pineapples and wheat, and has argued that this was impeding joint efforts to increase market access for agricultural items.

The matter was taken up at the India-US Trade Policy Forum in New Delhi in November 2021 and it was decided that the issue would be further examined.

Dismissing the FSSAI draft, BKU said that the FSSAI was attempting to allow GMO despite farmer unions, other citizen groups as well as State governments ensuring that no GM food crops are permitted to be cultivated in India, and also not allowing risky field trials.

It also criticised the draft for not containing provisions for an independent and long term impact study of GMO.

“No market surveillance mechanisms have been proposed, nor is it clear who will be taking decisions and with whose interests kept in mind,” the note further said.