The Kerala Roller Flour Millers Association and the All Kerala Bread Manufacturers Association have called for an immediate ban on open air releases of genetically modified (GM) food crops.
The call comes in the wake of reports that the controversial Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill will be tabled in the coming winter session of Parliament.
In memoranda to the Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee, Ministry of Food Processing Industries, and the Confederation of Indian Industry on November 11, the two food associations said their members had decided to reject GM crops. The communication said the decision was taken after considering the concerns expressed at the sixth National Trade Fair for Bakery and Pastry Professionals in India held in Mumbai from November 6 to 11 on the implications GM foods had on trade within the country and outside. According to the decision, the two associations would not accept GM crops from November.
The memoranda said an opinion poll conducted by market research agency Gfk Mode showed that close to 80 per cent of consumers in the country would not accept food containing genetically modified organisms. In this backdrop, any open release of GM crops was a cause for concern.
GM-free zones sought
Demanding GM-free zones, the associations said that in the past, concerns had led to a ban on any open release, including experimental trials, of GM rice in the entire Basmati belt of the country. “This was to safeguard rice exports from GM contamination which could have led to loss of trade.”
The memoranda said that since both the associations represented a significant part of the Indian food industry, it was essential for them to avoid any contamination of their chain of supplies by GM crops, especially in regions from where they sourced their raw materials. The memorandum cited seven such regions in the country which were of concern to the associations, and these were Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, and Bihar from where wheat was sourced.
The associations urged the FSSAI to take up the issue with the Union government to ensure that policies were put in place to safeguard the interests of the food processing industry.
Meanwhile, in a communication to The Hindu in this connection, the environmental organisation Greenpeace India wanted the Union government to take into consideration the massive opposition faced by GM crops from all stakeholders. “In this backdrop, the BRAI Bill should be redrafted from its current form to one that underscores biosafety.”
The Greenpeace felt that in the current form, the BRAI Bill failed in terms of its capacity as a regulator “because of the very fact that it seems more like a promoter than a regulator of GM crops.” The fear was that the Bill aimed at bringing back Bt brinjal and rice against the wishes of the people, the communication said.