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US wants technical cooperation with FSSAI

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on April 06, 2021

In August last year, the FSSAI published an order specifying that every consignment of 24 identified food products needs to be accompanied by a non-GM-origin-cum-GM-free certificate   -  Motortion

In submission to WTO, says India should withdraw, defer order till ‘less burdensome’ alternatives are found

The US wants to engage in technical cooperation with the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) to develop alternatives to the ‘non-GM (genetically modified) origin and GM free certificates’ that have been mandated by India for certain agricultural imports. It has sought withdrawal of the order or a delay in its implementation till “less burdensome’’ alternatives could be discussed.

“The US notes that, after numerous requests for India to revoke the order, on January 27, 2021, the US Department of Agriculture proposed technical cooperation to develop alternatives to the non-GM origin and GM-free certificate and we are optimistic that the FSSAI will agree to this opportunity,” the US noted in a recent submission to the WTO Committee on Sanitary & Phytosanitary measures.

Washington requested that India withdraw the mandatory certification order, implemented on March 1 2021, and if not, should at least delay it to January 2022 to allow for further technical engagement between the FSSAI and trade partners. This would allow less burdensome alternatives to be developed that could meet the order’s stated food safety goals, it said.

In August last year, 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 was to be implemented on January 1, 2021, but was deferred by three months.

Check on imports

The FSSAI’s action followed a growing demand from several quarters for increased check on imports after studies carried out by research and advocacy body Centre for Science and Environment in 2018 found that about 32 per cent of samples of food items such as edible oils, processed and packaged food and infant food items, produced locally and imported, contained GM ingredients. Of greater concern was the finding that about 46 per cent of imported items were positive.

The US argument against the order is that GM or GE (genetically engineered) products are not harmful. It is of the opinion that through reports by the National Academy of Science and the WHO, among others, the international scientific and regulatory community has reached a consensus that GE products available on the international market are as safe as their conventional counterparts. It also pointed out that it was not aware that India had carried out any risk assessments on GE products to show that they were less safe.

Referring to FSSAI’s clarification published on February 8, 2021, establishing a 1 per cent tolerance for presence of GE in imported food consignments, the US requested India to provide the scientific justification for establishing the tolerance at this level and provide any relevant risk assessments or international standards on which this tolerance is based.

Published on April 06, 2021

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