GM soymeal

New Delhi, August 27th 2021: The Coalition for a GM-Free India, a civil society platform that had been in the forefront of struggles against hazardous gene technologies being deployed in India, has termed the decision of Government of India to import GM soymeal as patently illegal. “It is a case of regulators abdicating their legally mandated responsibilities, and subjecting citizens to the hazardous of unsafe and unwanted gene technologies”, said the Coalition in a statement released today. The Coalition was referring to the Gazette Notification (No.20/2015-2020 dated 24th August 2021) published by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, whereby GM soymeal was allowed for import, relaxing or making an exception in the rules of the Import Policy of 2017, which in turn is in continuation with earlier policies of Government of India.

The notification refers to the Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry & Dairying seeking permission/approval of MoEF&CC for importing 12 lakh metric tons of crushed and de-oiled GM soya cake as non-living organism upto 31st October 2021 or earlier. It further refers to the MoEF letter dated 6.8.2021 which is supposed to have ‘clarified’ that “since soya de-oiled and crushed (DOC) cake does not contain any living modified organism, this Ministry has no concerns and no objection for import of soya cakes from environmental angle”.

“This is patently illegal, and an obvious case of regulators abdicating their legally mandated responsibilities. The 1989 Rules of the Environment Protection Act 1986, which govern matters related to deployment of gene technologies amongst others, refers to products and substances in addition to genetically engineered organisms. Clauses of the 1989 Rules like Rule 2(1), 2(2), 3(1)(c), 4(3)(1), 7(1) etc. refer to such products and substances, and the need to regulate them. It is understood that MoEFCC officials are pointing to a Notification put out in 2007 to point out why they would not regulate such GM feed imports. However, the said notification is about “food stuffs and additives” under Rule 11. In a Supreme Court case, even this 2007 notification was allowed only after FSSAI assured the Court that it was stepping in to regulate GM food stuffs”, said the Coalition in a statement. “We had pointed out in 2018 itself how regulators were abdicating their responsibilities repeatedly, and in the recent past, FSSAI was forced to address the issue of GM food imports by putting into place GM-free status certification for some commodities”, explained the Coalition.

“The Cartagena Biosafety Protocol, to which India is a signatory, clearly refers to both Living Modified Organisms as well as products thereof. How can India escape its regulatory mandate of assessing the safety of such imports?”, challenged the Coalition.

The Coalition pointed out that the government buckled under pressure from the poultry industry. The industry could have easily made do with other grains for a couple of months if there was shortage of soy in the country. Further, speculative trading of such grains should be curbed immediately. Instead of doing that, the Government compromised on the interests of citizens, by allowing the import of GM soymeal. In the medium and long term, this will have implications not just for soy farmers in the country, but also on poultry farmers when consumers start shunning unsafe products.

“There is scientific evidence that points to the hazards of GM livestock feed. In India too, after Bt cotton seed cake was fed to animals, there were reports of ill health as well as adverse effect on milk yields. The Supreme Court’s Technical Expert Committee pointed to government’s own studies on the subject to contest the regulators’ conclusion around safety of GMOs. The government should have taken cognisance of the same and should have protected farmer and consumer interests”. The decision of the government will now be legally challenged, given its illegality, said the Coalition.


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