Dr Ramadoss, ban unsafe GE food: Greenpeace

Press release - June 23, 2008
NEW DELHI, India — Greenpeace knocked on the doors of Health Ministry today to remind Dr Ramadoss, the Health Minister about the health risks of GM foods. The activists piled up the illegal GM chips packets in front of the Ministry while unfurling a banner declaring, "Dr Ramadoss, we do not want GE food". Two other activists in saris handcuffed themselves to gate number 5 of Nirman Bhavan. They were demanding an immediate action from the Health Minister to stop the influx of illegal GM food which is becoming a health crisis. Last month, Greenpeace had revealed that Pepsico's Doritos corn chips that are widely sold in India, contained genetically modified ingredients.

Greenpeace volunteers unfold a banner in front of the Health Ministry to draw attention of Dr Ramadoss, the Health Minister to the influx of illegal GM food in to the country.

The apex body for the regulation of such food products, the Genetic

Engineering Approval Committee's (GEAC) has been deferring a decision

on the matter for want of trivial details.[1] the representative of

the health ministry, was not present in this meeting despite being

informed about the issue. ."There is no doubt that presence of such

illegal, genetically modified food products is a threat to public

health and safety. It's been confirmed that Doritos contains MON863

[2] variety of corn which had caused liver and kidney toxicity on

rats. Our health minister is known to take strong positions on the

long term health of the citizens and has been concerned about junk

food. We wonder why is he quiet about such a serious issue?" said

Rajesh Krishnan, Campaigner, Sustainable Agriculture, Greenpeace

India.

India has a law prohibiting the sale of any genetically modified food

products without the permission of Genetic Engineering Approval

Committee [3]. Greenpeace had received RTI responses from the Director

General of Health services,   Director General of Foreign Trade and

the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, the three agencies

involved in regulation of import of Genetically Modified food in the

country, declaring that no permission has been granted for the import

and sale of any Genetically modified Food in India other than purified

Soya oil.

"Issues regarding the safety of GM products, promoted for human

consumption, remain a cause for concern and many countries in the

world (including the EU) continue to restrict GM from entering their

country. It is surprising that while India has in place regulatory

mechanisms designed to control and restrict the entry of GM food

products, these regulations have been flouted blatantly in the case of

Pepsico's Doritos corn chips," said Dr, Amit Sengupta of the Jan

Swasthya Abhiyan.

The Food Safety and Standards Authority, which is not fully functional

but supposed to take over the regulation of such processed foods, is

an autonomous body under the health ministry. Last September, the GEAC

has already notified the transfer of jurisdiction to this authority

even before the authority had been functional. It was during this

time, products like Doritos had entered the market without any

regulatory control. The GEAC has now extended the time till September

2008 for the FSSA to become functional. "It is also a well known fact

that there are no laboratories notified or testing protocols issued by

the GEAC in its 19 years of service to the country to stop any dumping

of GM food into the country," added Rajesh [5]

The GEAC in its 86th meeting on the 25th of this month is expected to

discuss the details of this illegal GM food. It is hoped that a

decision will be  taken to confiscate and ban this processed food from

the market.

Greenpeace is demanding that the Health Minister takes an active

position on the issue of safety of GM foods and ensure that these

products are confiscated from the market without any delay.

For further information, contact

Jayashree Nandi- Greenpeace India Communications, +91-9343868011,


Rajesh Krishnan, Campaigner, Sustainable Agriculture, Greenpeace, +91
9845650032,

Notes to Editor

[1], GEAC has communicated to Greenpeace asking the amount of GM corn
present in the samples, while the independent lab based in Germany had
confirmed the presence of corn and soya contaminants at an accuracy of
0.01%.
[2] The study on Mon 863 was published in the American journal,
Archives of Environmental contamination and toxicology dated May 2007,
and is available online
http://www.springerlink.com/content/02648wu132m07804/?p=d84fa910926d4c7492a585a386b28812&pi=18
[3] Under the Rules for the Manufacture, Use, Import, Export and
Storage of Hazardous Micro Organisms Genetically Engineered Organisms
or Cells (1989), Rule 7 (1) states "No person shall import, export,
transport, manufacture, process, use or sell any hazardous micro
organisms, genetically engineered organisms/substances or cells except
with the approval of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee." Rule
11 states: "Foodstuff, ingredients in food stuffs and additives
including processing and containing or consisting of genetically
engineered organisms or cells, shall not be produced, sold, imported
or used except with the approval of the Genetic Engineering Approval
Committee."
[5]. Information from customs officials had confirmed that they are
unable to track GM foods because there is no testing protocols or
notified labs provided by the authority.