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32% processed food GM-contaminated, says study: Refutes Govt of India claim no such food sold in country

By Our Representative
A laboratory study has claimed that 32% (21 out of 65) of the food product samples were found to be genetically modified (GM)-positive, and 80% (16 out of 21) of those which tested positive were imported. It contends, these products are being sold in the Indian market, despite the law – Section 22 of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 – does not allowed GM food “to be manufactured, imported or sold in India.”
The study was carried out because, according to a group of researchers led by Chandra Bhushan, it was felt that the safety of GM crops and products has been a matter of concern for human health, and risk assessment on a case-by-case basis is critical for a country-level decision to allow or restrict GM foods.
Titled “Genetically Modified Processed Foods in India: Need to Curb Illegal Sales in the Indian Market”, the study by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), Delhi, says, the imported food items testing GM positive “were made of or used soya, corn and rapeseed and were imported from Canada, the Netherlands, Thailand, the UAE, and the US.”
Pointing out that 56% (9/16) of oil samples, 25% (10/39) of packaged food samples and 25% (2/8) of infant food samples were GM-positive”, the study says, the five samples of cottonseed oil from India also tested positive, mainly because BT-cotton is the single GM crop that has “been allowed for cultivation in the country.”
Noting that “GM contamination” in infant food sold for children with medical ailments, including allergies, the study says, “Two products by Abbott Laboratories, the American healthcare company, were found to be GM-positive – one was for lactose-intolerant infants and the other was a hypoallergenic (for minimizing the possibility of an allergic reaction).”
The study finds that 65% (13/21) GM-positive samples did not mention anything about GM on their labels. These include canola oil brands (Farrell imported from UAE by Jindal Retails; Hudson’ from UAE, marketed by Dalmia Continental; Jivo from Canada by Jivo Wellness; and cottonseed oil brands from India (Ankur, Ginni, Tirupati and Vimal).
The study regrets, “No GM-positive packaged oil sample mentioned GM ingredients on its label”, adding, “Three out of five brands that had claims on their labels suggesting no use of GM ingredients were found GM positive. These were Candrop canola oil imported from Canada, Mori-Nu tofu imported from the US and PromPlus sweet whole kernel corn from Thailand.”
Addressing media, well-known environmentalist Sunit Narain, who heads CSE, while releasing the study, said, opinion on whether GM food is a health hazard, is divided, adding, the research findings, however, strongly refute Government of India claim that no GM food is available in India.
Stating that “no standards” for GM foods have been laid down/notified by Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), which falls under the Union ministry of health and family welfare, researcher Bhushan told media, as of today, labeling of GM foods is mandatory in the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, South Korea and Japan, and is voluntary in US and Canada.
Pointing out that thresholds, based on quantity of GM DNA or weight of the GM ingredient in the total product, is 5% in Japan, as against EU, which provides a limit of 0.9% “in view of adventitious or technically unavoidable presence”, Bhushan took strong exception to an FSSAI proposal seeks to follow the Japanese model, without caring to note that, in Japan, it is applicable to only to a list of 33 processed-food categories derived from eight approved GM crops.
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