Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (hereinafter referred to as “FSSAI”) is responsible for regulating genetically modified (hereinafter referred to as “GM”) food products. GM food products mean food and food ingredients composed of genetically modified or engineered organisms obtained through modern biotechnology, or food and food ingredients produced from but not containing genetically modified or engineered organisms obtained through modern biotechnology.
On July 5, 2012, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution (Department Of Consumer Affairs) had issued notification G.S.R. 427(E) which stated that “Every package containing the genetically modified food shall bear at the top of its principal display panel the words ‘GM’”. This notification came into effect from January, 2013 and thus, allowed consumers to make an informed choice on whether packaged foods that they purchase contain any GM content.
In furtherance of this, India’s apex food regulator, FSSAI is currently working to establish guidelines for labelling of GM goods, wherein Food Business Operators (FBOs) have to disclose details of GM ingredients used on the labels of processed food. This step by FSSAI is envisaged to be a step forward in creating awareness among consumers as now consumers, in addition to being aware on whether their food contains GM content, will also be apprised of the details of GM content in their food. However, such awareness will only be prevalent among consumers of packaged foods as a large segment of the Indian population purchase food in loose and unpackaged forms. Majority of food consumed in India is in unpackaged form.
However, once the guidelines on labelling of GM food products are published, manufactures of packaged food have to disclose details of GM ingredients used on the labels of processed food. Further, not only manufacturers but also importers of GM food products have to specify the GM content on the labels. Import of GM food products requires prior approval of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) constituted by the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change and therefore, importers of GM food products have to abide by the labelling guidelines of GM food products in order to get clearance from GEAC.
The guidelines on disclosure of GM content on food labels are under the process of being drafted. We shall provide you with further information once the guidelines are published.