The US has drawn attention to domestic approval given in India for environmental release of GM mustard and the “routine cultivation” of GM cotton by Indian farmers, in its latest submission to WTO, to strengthen its argument against the country’s mandatory non-GMO (genetically modified origin) certification requirement for food.

Washington raised its concerns, for the eighth time, on India’s order requiring a “non-GM origin and GM-free certificate” for 24 commodities imported for human consumption, at the recent SPS Committee meeting of the WTO in Geneva. In its submission, it complained that India had still not shared the requested scientific justification.

“After numerous requests, India still has not provided a science- and risk-based justification for these requirements,” the US said in a statement at the meeting on July 12-14. India appears to be ignoring a decades-long track record of publicly available risk assessments conducted by competent authorities demonstrating that approved foods and feeds derived from modern biotechnology are safe for consumption, it said.

“We also note that India recently approved domestically produced GM mustard for commercial use and that India’s farmers routinely cultivate GM cotton,” the submission added.

While the environmental release of GM mustard hybrid DMH-11 and its parental lines was approved in India by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) on October 18, 2022, for its seed production and testing prior to commercial release, the matter remains under adjudication before the Supreme Court of India following complaints around bio-safety protocols filed by some green groups.

The US’ objection is to the FSSAI’s decision, implemented from March 1, 2021, requiring a mandatory non-GMO and GM-free status certificate from exporting countries for 24 listed  food products. The items include pineapples, apples, wheat, rice, tomato, potato, maize, melon, plum, papaya, potato, egg plant, bean, among others.

US companies find it difficult to adhere to the certification requirement as the country has no restrictions on GM food. “The United States continues to request India to immediately revoke this trade restrictive measure,” the submission said.

In previous floor statements, India asserted that the certification requirement is an assurance from competent authorities that food crops exported to India for human consumption are of non-GM origin and GM-free and cited several trade partners who are complying, the statement pointed out.

“The United States has noted that compliance with the GM-free certificate requirement is not evidence that the measure is consistent with the WTO SPS Agreement,” it said. The statement added that the US was available to engage in further dialogue to identify safe trade facilitative alternatives that address India’s legitimate concerns.