Special Correspondent

Environment Ministry notifies rules on micro-organisms

Processed food may be excluded from notificationImport of refined soybean oil allowed on interim basis

NEW DELHI: The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has notified the rules for manufacture, use, import, export and storage of hazardous micro-organisms under the Genetically Engineered Organisms, Rules 1989 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.

It, however, proposes to amend rule 11, after inter-ministerial consultation, to exclude processed food including oil from the purview of the notification.

Under the new rules, import of soybean oil (refined or de-gummed) derived from genetically modified (GM) soya will require prior approval by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC).

Policy decision

However, in the light of the recommendations made by the Swaminathan Committee on Agricultural Biotechnology on r-pharma, the ministry has taken a policy decision that the GEAC be involved in regulation of organisms or products in which the end product is a Living Micro Organism (LMO).

As per Section 11 of Rules 1989, foodstuffs, ingredients in foodstuffs and additives including processing aids containing or consisting of genetically engineered organisms or cells shall not be produced, sold, imported or used except with GEAC approval.

New policy

This follows the new import policy on Genetically Modified Organisms/Living Modified Organisms announced by the Commerce Ministry through a Directorate-General of Foreign Trade notification that mandates prior approval by the GEAC for all GM products including food items.

On an interim basis, the GEAC approved the import of refined soybean oil subject to certification from the country of export that it has been derived from Roundup Ready Soybeans. For crude de-gummed soybean oil, in addition to this certification, the importer is required to submit an analytical report from either the Central Food Technology Research Institute, the National Institute of Nutrition or Shri Ram Laboratories on the composition of the oil both in the pre and post-processing stages.

The test results should also include the pre and post-refining levels of glyphosate in the oil as well as in the residue.

The GEAC clearance does not exempt importers from the requirements under Prevention of Food Adulteration Act.