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article imageGMO labeling signed into law in India

By Anne Sewell     Jan 11, 2013 in Food
The new year started in India with a new law. From January 1, 2013 all packaged foods containing any genetically modified (GM) organisms must be labeled as such.
The decision was made because so many food products in India are either derived from, or processed in, countries where a large majority of the crops cultivated are genetically modified (GMOs), including the USA, Canada, Argentina and Brazil.
India itself is still in the throes of debating the regulation of GM crops and so far, the only crop that has been planted and commercialized in India is Bt cotton.
To ensure that the public has a clear choice, starting on January 1, any products with genetically modified content must be clearly labeled.
A Gazette Notification was issued by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution which mandates packaged food producers to disclose GM ingredients, if any, in a label on their product.
A statement by B.N. Dixit, Director of Legal Metrology of the Department of Consumer affairs reads as follows:
“Every package containing the genetically modified food shall bear at top of its principal display panel the words ‘GM’,” under the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) (2 {+n} {+d} Amendment) Rules 2012.
These commodity rules apply to 19 products including biscuits, breads, cereals and pulses among others.
“The labeling will basically help inform the consumer about the presence of GM content in packaged food products.”
However, there is some concern about the implementation of the new labeling measure, as this would be done by the Food Standards and Safety Authority of India (FSSAI) under the Ministry of Health. Reportedly, the FSSAI has not yet announced any rules for implementing the labeling.
For this reason, the processed food sector is asking the Government to withdraw the notification until such time as the implementation rules are finalized by the FSSAI:
Sources in the industry said, “The Government should withdraw the regulation till the rules are formulated by FSSAI.”
Rajesh Krishnan, Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner with GreenPeace said, “Though the Government’s intention to label GM products is good, there is lack of clarity on the implementation part of it. The notification is too sketchy and does not mean anything.”
He further said that the labeling notification does not specify the threshold limits nor does it talk of traceability or the liability aspects.
GreenPeace, together with other agencies including the Consumer Coordination Council (CCC), which represents Indian consumer organizations, want the Government to make the GM labeling rules more stringent.
The CCC sent a letter to the Food Minister, K.V. Thomas saying that a minimum threshold will strengthen the labeling initiative.
The letter further stated that the CCC wants liability measures to be explicitly mentioned in the labeling rules.
Meanwhile, various states in the USA are trying to enforce labeling of GMO products, so far without success. The latest major attempt was Proposition 37, a California-based ballot initiative for labeling of GMOs, that lost by a small margin to Monsanto and other Big Pesticide and junk food companies.
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