SJM asks FSSAI to withdraw draft regulations on GM foods
Swadeshi Jagran Manch on Saturday asked the FSSAI to withdraw its draft regulations on genetically modified foods, describing the food safety regulator’s proposals as a ‘’prescription’’ for a public health disaster and a ‘’recipe’’ for increasing the risks of COVID-19 infections amid the pandemic.
Raising objections to the draft regulations in a communication to the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), the RSS body also slammed the regulator for ‘’overstepping’’ its jurisdiction and called the proposed regulations ‘’irresponsible’’, saying they will only deregulate genetically engineered food items in the country if brought into effect.
‘’The FSSAI’s draft is designed to create markets for the global GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) and processed food industry at the cost of our public health, our sovereignty and safety. FSSAI cannot be allowed to rob us of our health and freedom,” (SJM) said.
‘’We demand that the FSSAI withdraw this draft notification and safeguard public health and environment,’’ SJM added.
The food safety regulator had in November last year sought public comments on the draft regulation on manufacture, storage, distribution, sale and import of any food or food ingredient derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
‘’You are overstepping your jurisdiction by drafting regulations for GMO which are in fact a deregulation,’’ the SJM said submitting its comments with the FSSAI on the proposed Food Safety and Standards (Genetically Modified or Engineered Foods) Regulations, 2021.
The SJM underlined that the Environment Ministry is the nodal body for regulation of biosafety.
‘’The notification of August 23, 2007 of the Ministry of Environment only allowed you to regulate the safety of foodstuffs, not living modified organisms and live GMOs, under Rule 11 of the 1989 Rules for Regulating GMOs under the Environment Protection Act of 1989,’’ the SJM noted.
‘’You (FSSAI) do not have the power or authority to deal with exports and imports of GMOs which under Rule 7 continue to be under the jurisdiction of the GEAC (Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee). You are an authority under the Ministry of Health whose mandate is to protect the health of the Indian people,’’ it contended.
The FSSAI should understand that biosafety regulations are designed to protect the environment and public health, it added.
The SJM said that the proposed regulations are ‘’completely weak and irresponsible’’ and asked the FSSAI why does it not act against ‘’illegal GM foods’’ being sold, without any regulatory clearance, instead ‘’proposing to allow GMOs in India’’.
‘’It is well established that processed and ultra-processed foods are the root cause of noncommunicable chronic disease epidemic. By promoting GMO industrial food, FSSAI is causing a double harm to public health, first by allowing GMOs in our food, and also promoting industrial processing,’’ the SJM charged.
SJM said that while people across the world prefer non-GM food items, people in India and the state governments do not want GM foods. Public health is a state government subject as per Indian Constitution,it said and asked, ‘’How can FSSAI can ignore public choices, health implications and environmental hazards.’’
‘’We are in the midst of a pandemic. It is now recognised that morbidity due to COVID-19 is due to presence of commodity factors such as diabetes, cancer, hypertension which are related to ‘toxics’ in our food and processed food. Your irresponsible draft regulation is thus a recipe for increasing the risks of COVID-19. You are prescribing a public health disaster,’’ it added.