Genetically modified food to be labeled

All packaged food with at least 5% content from genetically engineered sources need to be labelled so. Moreover, foods that exceed norms of sugar and fat should carry ‘red’ and ‘green’ labels specifying the extent to which they do so, according to draft regulations by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).

This is the first time that the Central government has laid down guidelines for labelling genetically modified (GM) food. Officials say they are awaiting public comments.

What is the present position?

The government has been contemplating a system for labelling 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 companies will check the GM content and we will conduct further tests and checks.

What are the other provisions of the draft?

The draft also defines the safe levels of fat, sugar and salt in processed food. 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; and total fat or sodium content provided by the 100 g/100 ml of the product is more than certain specified threshold values.

(Adapted from The Hindu)