GM in Indian foods: Greenpeace flags the good and the bad

Feature story - September 8, 2009
NEW DELHI, India — Eleven major food companies in India have been slotted in a ‘red list’, compiled by Greenpeace India, in the country’s first safe food guide on Genetically Modified ingredients.

The companies are: Nestlé, Hindustan Unilever, Kellogg, Cadbury, Agro Tech Foods Ltd., FieldFresh Foods Pvt Ltd. (a unit of Bharti Enterprises), Bambino Agro Industries Ltd., Britannia Industries Ltd., Godrej Hershey Foods, Parle, and Safal.

The 'red list' is a compilation of food companies that told Greenpeace India they would use GM ingredients, companies that evaded the issue in correspondence with Greenpeace, and companies that said nothing despite repeated Greenpeace correspondence over 45 days.

A corresponding 'green list'  is also in the 'Greenpeace Safe Food Guide - A Consumer's Guide to GM-Free Food'. In the 'green list' are companies who told Greenpeace they do not use GM ingredients.

The good boys of the Indian food processing industry so far are: MTR, Dabur, Haldiram's, ITC Foods, PepsiCo India, and Ruchi Soya.

Jai Krishna, Greenpeace GM Markets Campaigner, released the safe food guide at a press conference in New Delhi. Bejon Misra, Managing Trustee, Healthy You Foundation, received the first copy of the guide in a symbolic gesture on behalf of the consumers of India.

"Greenpeace India is empowering consumers with this guide because they have a right to know whether their food is GM-free. Consumers also demand GM-free food as they have done in the European Union, Brazil, and China," said Jai Krishna.

The companies in the 'red list'  manufacture a host of foods that cover virtually every household in India, at least in the non-rural sector.

This is a quick list of the companies and some of their products in the 'red list'. Basically, the bad boys.

Agro Tech Foods Ltd: Sundrop Sunflower oil, Crystal, Rath Vanaspati, Act II popcorn.

Bambino Agro Industries Ltd: Vermicelli, soups, instant mixes, Bambino pasta, sweets.

FieldFresh Foods Pvt Ltd (a Bharti unit): vegetables, fruits, pre-cuts, noodle mix, pizza mix, sambhar mix.

Britannia Industries Ltd: Tiger, Milkman, Good Day (all biscuits), Daily Fresh breads and rusks, cookies, cakes, butter, yoghurt.

Cadbury: Dairy Milk, Five Star, Perk, Éclairs, Gems, Bournville, Celebrations.

Godrej Hershey Foods: Nutrine, Xs, Jumpin, Sofit (soy milk), oil, tea, vanaspati, tomato puree.

Kellogg: Corn flakes.

Hindustan Unilever: Brooke Bond, Lipton, Brooke Bond Bru, Kissan, Annapurna, Knorr, Kwality Walls.

Nestlé: Everyday Whitener, Slim Milk, yoghurt, Milo, Nestea, Maggi noodles, Maggi sauces, Kit Kat, Bar-One, Polo, and Cerelac, Nestum, Lactogen (all baby foods).

Safal: fruits, vegetables, pickles, jams, squashes, fruit drinks, IQF vegetables.

This is almost the entire grocery list of most urban families. Chocolate products are another shock in the 'red' category, as are the Maggi range.

Most of these products are marketed heavily on television, sending messages that they help create healthy individuals. Greenpeace India is saying this may not be so.

Greenpeace India demands that food businesses adopt a no-GM policy because of the risks to health and environment, and that they take proactive steps to inform consumers of the presence or absence of GM products in their products.

"The safety of GM crops as a foodstuff for animals and humans is unknown, and the testing regimes are inadequate. Studies on laboratory animals (rats) have pointed out potential health risks including allergies, abnormal growth of organs such as liver and kidney, and many unpredictable effects," said Jai Krishna.

Bejon Misra, who received the first copy of the guide, said: "Greenpeace has done yeoman service by providing this easily understandable tool for consumers to be aware of GMOs. This would empower the consumer."

Some of the 'green list' products are:

PepsiCo India: Uncle Chips, Cheetos, Lays, Kurkure, Quaker, Tropicana, Gatorade, Slice, Dukes, Mangola.

ITC Foods: Kitchens of India, curry pastes, strawberry and mint jam, Aaashirvaad Atta (wheat flour), Sunfeast biscuits and cookies, Bingo, Candyman, Mint-o.

MTR: soups, ready to eat, rice meals, frozen foods, instant sweet mixes, spice powders, pickles, jams, papads, ice creams, instant snack mixes.

Ruchi Soya: Mahakosh oil, Ruchi Gold, Nutrela rice bran oil, vanaspati, Nutrela N'rich, soy foods, bakery fats.

Dabur: Dabur Chyawanprash, Hajmola, Pudin Hara, soups, coconut milk, tomato puree, Real, Activ, Lemoneez, Glucose-D, Dabur Honey.

Haldiram's: Mopleez Aloo Bhujia, namkeens, gulab jamun, soan papdi, other sweets, snacks.

Keep my food GM-free!

Join the rest of India and say NO to GM food.

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