New Delhi: The Union environment ministry has asked the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) to stop imports of genetically modified (GM) soybean for food or feed without the approval of the regulator for transgenic products.
A 23 February letter from the ministry of environment, forest and climate change, reviewed by Mint, said that the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) has received a complaint regarding “illegal/unauthorized import of GM soybean into India from countries like the US and Ukraine, (where cultivated soybean is mostly GM soybean)".
“In this context, it is informed that the GEAC, which is the regulatory body for Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and products thereof, has not authorized or approved GM soybean or any other products derived from GM soybean seeds for import or cultivation in India," the letter to DGFT said.
“You are requested to consider taking appropriate action, and also issue suitable directives to concerned agencies and officers not to allow import of any GM soybean (seeds/grains or products derived from GM soybean) for use as food/feed or any other purpose without approval of GEAC," it added.
The issue of GM foods has been controversial in India, with cotton being the only transgenic crop which is allowed to be cultivated. The environment ministry is yet to take a final call on allowing the commercial cultivation of GM mustard.
The ministry’s letter was prompted by a complaint by the Coalition for a GM-free India to GEAC about the illegal imports. The group had demanded a thorough investigation and requested GEAC to ensure that soybean seed imports at ports must be tested to ensure that they are non-GM in nature.
According to the complaint, every year, India imports thousands of tonnes of soybean seeds for sowing and crushing.
Illegal import of GM food has been taking place for year, said Kavitha Kuruganti, a member of the coalition.
“I think that this fait accompli that is being delivered on citizens of this country where both environment and human health is being threatened is unacceptable, especially when a parliamentary committee and experts from across fields have warned against it and even the Supreme Court is looking into the issue. In such a context, regulators failing to discharge their duty and thrusting hazardous GMOs down our throats is irresponsible," Kuruganti added.