Activists cite language barriers in draft regulations on GM foods


Activists and subject experts have demanded that the draft regulations on GM foods put out by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) – which is available just in English currently – be made available in all Indian languages, and therefore the deadline for submitting feedback should be extended.

After dithering for years on the same, the FSSAI had notified the draft regulations on GM foods on November 15, 2021, with January 15 as the deadline for feedback from stakeholders.

Taking to twitter on Tuesday, Kavitha Kuruganti of the ‘Coalition for a GM-Free India’ said: “The current @fssaiindia draft GM food regulations 2021 are just in English. We want FSSAI 2 extend d deadline of Jan15 by 6 months & put up their draft in Indian vernacular languages, n hold widespread consultations. Most citizens r saying #NoGMFoods (Sic).”

“This draft should be made available in 22 vernacular languages. We will raise this issue on the appropriate platform as we had done in case of draft EIA 2020,” said Vikrant Tongad, founder of Social Action for Forests and Environment (SAFE).

The activist had filed a petition demanding translation of the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Act into 22 languages, forcing the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to indeed bring out the draft in all the 22 official languages.

There is a lot of hue and cry about the actual content of the draft, especially about its selective omissions. However, right now, the activists are focussing on getting the draft available in all the 22 official languages.

Earlier, in the run up to the deadline to submit feedback, several citizens and civil society groups had claimed that it is a ploy to bring in GM foods through the backdoor.

The draft regulation by FSSAI mentions a system for all importers of some select crops — apple, eggplant, maize, wheat, melon, pineapple, papaya, plum, potato, rice, soybean, sugar beet, sugarcane, tomato, sweet pepper, squash, flax-seed, bean plum and chicory — for a mandatory ‘non-GM-origin-cum-GM-Free’ certification from January 1, but this is not applicable to processed GM foods.

Since April 2016, the issue of GM foods has been left virtually unregulated between the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) in the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and the FSSAI under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.



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