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India's Imported Food Contains Illegal GE Ingredients

India's Imported Food Contains Illegal GE Ingredients

Do imported foods have GM ingredients?

The Times of India News Service
June 7, 2001

NEW DELHI: Has genetically-engineered (GE) food illegally entered the
country as ingredients of legally imported food products, which are freely
available in local markets? Greenpeace activists say it has and demand that
the Union government act to check this trend.

At a news conference on Wednesday, the environmental organisation said it
had got two such products tested independently, and found they contained
genetically-engineered ingredients. One, they say, is a brand of chips; the
second, a brand of baby food.

The long-term health effects of genetically-modified foods aren't clear yet,
say activists, pointing out that hundreds of food products recently had to
be recalled in the US because they contained traces of a GE ingredient
suspected to cause allergies.

The Indian law is already on Greenpeace's side. Genetically-engineered food
products cannot be imported or sold in this country without permission - and
they say none has been given, though this could not be confirmed with the
Union environment ministry.

Greenpeace accuses the manufacturers of these products of practising double
standards - the same companies have made commitments in Europe that they
would not use GE ingredients in food products.

The consumer, say Greenpeace activists, must be able to find out what
ingredients have been used in a particular product. Let it be labelled at
every stage, they suggest. This is where the `country of origin' issue also
becomes important.

The government, they say, should take serious action on violations -
officials in the health ministry, concerned with labelling and health impact
issues, were not available for comment. An agriculture ministry official
said their role was limited to genetically-modified agricultural products,
and the guidelines on this were strict.

The main problems, say Greenpeace activists, are in products from the US,
Canada and Argentina. In 2000, they say, over half the soya and a fourth of
the corn grown in the US was genetically engineered and that country refuses
to segregate conventional crops from GE ones.

There are countries which demand details of the seeds used, or the
processing - they demand certification, and get it. India has a law in place
too but it needs implementation. ``These countries have to start respecting
Indian law,'' says Isabelle Meister, science advisor with Greenpeace
International.

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