US, Australia, Brazil question India’s proposal for mandatory GM-free certification for food imports

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on November 09, 2020

Measure to be applicable by January 1, but India assures concerns will be addressed before implementation

India’s proposal to make it mandatory for certain imported food crops to have certificates for non-genetically modified (GM) origin and GM-free status from January 1, 2021 has been objected to by the US, Australia, Brazil and some others at the World Trade Organization on the ground that it would create an “undue burden’’ on exporting countries.

“The countries opposing India’s proposal argued that the proposal might be indicating that genetically engineered foods were less safe than non-genetically engineered foods but they had received no information on any risk assessment tests that India may have conducted on the matter,” a Geneva-based official told BusinessLine.

India, on its part, assured members that the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) will review all comments received from members and will engage bilaterally with a view to finding a mutually acceptable solution, the official added. The issue was discussed at the meeting of the WTO Committee on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) last week. Other countries that expressed concern over the proposal include Argentina, Canada, Chile, Japan, New Zealand, Paraguay and Uruguay

FSSAI order

In August, the FSSAI published an order specifying that every consignment of 24 identified food products, which include pineapples, apples, wheat, rice, tomato, potato, maize, melon, plum, papaya, potato, egg plant, bean, among others, need to be accompanied by a non-GM-origin-cum-GM-free certificate issued by Competent National Authority of the exporting country. The order is to be effective from January 1, 2021, the order said.

In the order, the FSSAI cited a food safety and standards regulation that specified that the food authority may issue order or advisory or guideline as it deemed fit, from time to time for ensuring the safety and wholesomeness of articles of food imported into India.

The countries objecting to the restrictions further argued that there were studies conducted by reputed institutions such as the National Academy of Science and the World Health Organisation, which held that genetically engineered products that are sold in the global market are as safe as conventional products.

“The countries stated that if India went ahead and implemented the measure, it would lead to an undue burden on exporters of the products and in the absence of any relevant risk assessment tests, the certification requirements were unjustified,” the official said.

New Delhi said that the measures would come into effect only after all concerns voiced by WTO member countries are examined.

Published on November 09, 2020

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