Proposed Norms for labeling of genetically modified food

This is the first time that the Central government has laid down guidelines for labeling genetically modified food. The provisions of the new norms include

  • All packaged food with at least 5% content from genetically engineered sources need to be labeled so.
  • foods that exceed norms of sugar and fat should carry ‘red’ and ‘green’ labels specifying the extent to which they do so,
  • Food packs would have a designated space coloured RED in case
  • The value of energy from total sugar was more than 10 per cent of the total energy (kcal) provided by the 100 g/100 ml of the product.
  • The value of energy (kcal) from trans-fat is more than 1 per cent of the total energy (kcal) provided by the 100 g/100 ml of the product.
  • Total fat or sodium content provided by the 100 g/100 ml of the product is more than certain specified threshold values.

The government has been contemplating a system for labeling GM foods for at least two years. Current laws prohibit any GM food unless cleared by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee, a Environment Ministry body– from being sold in the country.

Through a 2007 notification, the Ministry exempted processed foods from this requirement; this has been stayed by the courts. There was also dispute between the FSSAI, a Union Health Ministry body, and the Environment Ministry on who checks if a particular food had a GE provenance. The new norms propose that the companies will check the GM content and FSSAI will conduct further tests and checks. [The Hindu]

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