Pressing the food safety regulator to take concrete action against illegal genetically modified (GM) food items in the Indian markets, a delegation of citizens representing India For Safe Food (IFSF) today demanded that these be removed and punitive action be initiated against the violators.
The response came in the wake of a report released by the Centre for Science and Environment which said that GM processed food items, including infant food, were being widely sold in the country illegally.
Reacting to the report, the FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of india) maintained that the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 provides that no person shall manufacture, distribute, sell or import any genetically modified article of food except as otherwise provided under the Act and regulations made thereunder.
The FSSAI said the threshold level for labelling of GM foods refers to the maximum permissible level (in percent) of unintentional and technically unavoidable GMO content in food that does not call for labelling.
"The response of the FSSAI does not satisfy us. It is not enough that they say that they are in the process of formulating regulations with regard to GM foods. They have said this for years now. What about the interim, when GM is being consumed by unaware citizens unknowingly and when industry is using loopholes to undertake unlawful sales?," IFSF said in a statement here.
"IFSF demanded that all GM foods, which are unpermitted and illegal in their presence in our markets, be removed by FSSAI immediately, and that punitive action be initiated against the violators so that it also becomes a deterrent for others," it said.
"However, the FSSAI CEO did not commit to anything concrete in terms of acting on illegal unapproved hazardous GM foods" said Ajay Etikala, a young Delhi'ite who works to promote awareness about safe food amongst urban consumers.
As many as 16 of the 21 foods that tested GM positive (80 per cent) were imported and five were manufactured in India, it said.
Jaya Iyer of KHANA, a consumer awareness group working on food justice issues said that a consumer's right to know what she or he is consuming, right to safe food and right to informed choices are all being violated by the "inaction" of FSSAI.
"It is very shocking that FSSAI is not putting out an order instructing all such foods to be removed from the shop shelves, distribution centres and storehouses," she added.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)