mporting or selling genetically modified (GM) soybean is a punishable offense in India. However, a racket unearthing the illegal cultivation of imported GM soybean seeds was reported from the western state of Gujarat last year.
New Delhi (Sputnik): A citizens’ group in India has sought strong action by the government against companies importing genetically modified (GM) soybean seeds from the US and Ukraine and selling them to local farmers.
The Coalition for GM-free India has said that the illegal proliferation of GM soybean is against the Environmental Protection Act, 1989 and a notification issued by the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) in 2006.
“Import of GM soybean seeds has not been approved in India. But we have been importing soy seeds from the US and Ukraine. The US is known to have mostly GM soybean (94%) and Ukraine has had its soy exports reportedly canceled by Russia for having GM contamination,” Kavitha Kurungati, one of the members of the coalition told Sputnik.
Recently, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), in their sales export data, confirmed that the US exported 500 tons of soybean to India in 2017-18 and 1200 tons of soybean in 2016-17.
In its 2017 report on India Oilseeds and Products, the USDA states “In recent years, India imported soybeans from Ethiopia, Benin, Ukraine, the United States, Nigeria, and Djibouti. Imports were mostly for food use and as also partly as seeds.”The coalition also suspects that several consignments from GM soybean producing countries are transferred mid-sea, and hence, the source and country of origin are obfuscated as well.
Earlier, in January of this year, the Indian agriculture ministry said in the parliament that an area of approximately two hectares in the western state of Gujarat had been found under illegal cultivation of GM soybean, following which the state’s police filed a case against the farmers, traders and seed producers engaged in such cultivation under the Environment Protection Act.
The citizens’ group has also asked India’s Ministry of Commerce to take action against the people involved in illegal import and sale of packaged food products containing genetically modified food. For instance, Betty Crocker cake mix is available in Indian retail outlets despite the label clearly stating that it is “partially produced with genetic engineering,” according to the complainants.