NEW DELHI: Violating laws governing food safety in India, hundreds of tonnes of banned genetically modified seeds (GM) are being imported to the country for cultivation while the regulators are busy passing the buck.
The Ministries of Commerce, Environment and Finance have been writing to each other to check import of GM seeds to India while none is taking measures to check the violation.
In the latest, the Ministry of Commerce & Industry’s Director General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) has now asked Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change (MoEF&CC) to take actions on the illegal genetically modified seed import.
Ironically, while the Environment Ministry’s (MoEF) Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) had forwarded the complaint on illegal GM seed import to Ministry of Commerce & Industry to take action, the DGFT chose to pass the buck back to MoEF and to the Department of Revenue in the Ministry of Finance and the Plant Quarantine Division and Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Farmers’ Welfare in the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare.
Interestingly, Ministry of Commerce & Industry’s data shows that India has been importing seeds from countries for crops which are overwhelmingly genetically modified in these countries.
Over the last decade, India imported maize seed totalling more than 528 tonnes from Argentina and more than 20 tonnes from USA. Of the overall maize cultivated in both these countries, more than 90 per cent maize is genetically modified. India also imports maize seeds from other GM maize producing countries such as Spain, Brazil and Philippines.
Similarly, India has imported more than 129 tonnes of sugar beet seed for sowing from US over the last decade. Of the overall sugar beet cultivated in the USA, more than 90 per cent sugar beet is genetically modified.
Industry and government data shows that India imported canola seed totalling more than 149 tonnes from the USA and 100 tonnes from Australia over the last decade. More than 90 per cent of canola cultivated in the USA, and a lesser proportion in Australia, is genetically modified.