India to flag concern with France, EU over GM rice

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on October 21, 2021

GM variety not produced in India, may be a ‘conspiracy’ to harm image: Govt

India will register its concern with France and the European Union over being unjustly identified as the point of origin of 500 tonnes of genetically modified broken rice converted into rice flour by a French company, Westhove, setting aside the fact that the country does not produce any commercial variety of GM rice, government officials have said.

The contamination could have happened at a later stage while the imported broken rice was being processed in the EU and may also be a conspiracy to malign the image of India as a reliable supplier of quality rice, the Commerce Ministry contended in a statement.

‘Unjustly identified’

“Agriculture Ministry officials are in touch with officials at the Indian Mission to the European Union in Brussels who will take up the issue of the country being unjustly identified as the source of GM rice with France’s representative office at the EU and the EC,” an official told BusinessLine.

Experts in India from the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee and IARI are investigating the matter in the light of allegations, but they have re-confirmed that commercial GM variety of rice is not grown in India, the Commerce Ministry statement pointed out.

Earlier this year, the European Commission’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed stated that 500 tonnes of Indian rice converted into rice flour by France’s Westhove were flagged during a regular check for its GM content. France issued a notification alerting Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Spain, the UK and the US as the possible destination of products made with the contaminated flour.

‘Something is fishy’

“Something is definitely fishy. GM traces are being reported in rice powder and not rice grain that is being exported from India. Since India does not produce any GM rice, there is a possibility that rice from which the powder has been made is not of Indian origin,” said Vinod Kumar Kaul, All India Rice Exporters’ Association.

Kaul said that while the alerts have not affected rice exports to the EU from India, the episode could have a negative future impact if not sorted out. India, a top rice exporter, posted a 13.7 per cent increase in rice exports during April-August 2021 to ₹28,269 crore, per government figures.

Published on October 20, 2021

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