The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has released a new draft of Genetically Modified (GM) Food regulations for public consultation, which proposes front-of-the pack labelling for packaged food products that contain 1 per cent or more of GM ingredients. The proposed draft regulation will be applicable on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) for food use, food ingredients produced from GMO that contains modified DNA, and GMO-derived ingredients, additives or processing aids.

“No person shall manufacture, pack, store, sell, market or otherwise distribute or import any food or food ingredient produced from GMOs, except with the prior approval of the Food Authority,” reiterated the draft of Food Safety and Standards (Genetically Modified Foods) Regulations, 2022.

Manufacturers and importers of GM food products and ingredients must submit an application to the FSSAI for prior approval. The draft regulations added that in the case of GMOs that are used as food or source material for production of food, a clearance from the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), the national competent authority for the environmental risk assessment, will also need to be submitted.

At the same time, if GMO is to be used as seeds or for cultivation, the applicant “ shall parallelly submit an application to the GEAC for compliance to Rules 1989 (Environment Ministry notified rules)“.

In terms of labelling, the draft regulation stated that food products having individual GM ingredient of 1 per cent or more should be labelled as “contains genetically modified organisms“. This label must appear on the front-of-pack of pre-packaged products, This labelling requirement also applies to adventitious or technically unavoidable presence of GM ingredients,” it added.

The FSSAI had first released a draft for GM Food regulation in November last year. “The new draft of the FSS GM Foods Regulations is significantly different from the draft released last year. The FSSAI has simplified the procedure of prior approvals for GM-derived foods. But it also has expanded the scope of the draft regulations to include food ingredients produced from GMOs that do not contain any modified DNA,” said Harsh Gursahani, a food lawyer and Partner at PLR Chambers.

The new draft also comes at a time when the issue of GM mustard is under the spotlight.