Greenpeace uncovers illegal GM food in India

Press release - May 2, 2008
NEW DELHI, India — Greenpeace today confirmed the presence of illegal Genetically Modified [GM] food in India at a press conference. Tests conducted at an independent laboratory on products picked up randomly from a supermarket in New Delhi has revealed that Pepsico’s Doritos Corn Chips contain genetically modified Mon 863 and NK 603 variety corn ingredients. [1]

 Both Mon 863 and NK 603 are Monsanto's genetically modified corn varieties. Mon 863 has a bacterial gene to give pest tolerance, while NK 603 has a bacterial gene for herbicide tolerance. An Independent analysis last year, done by the Committee for Independent Research and Information On Genetic Engineering [Crii-Gen] lead by Prof Gilles Eric Seralini, a member of the French National Committee For Risk Assessment of GMOs had concluded that both Mon 863 and NK 603 pose serious health impacts [2]. The debate that ensued led many countries in Europe including France and Romania to stop the cultivation of GM corn. None of these varieties have been approved in India for human consumption.

"Though India has a law prohibiting the sale of any genetically modified food products with out the permission of Genetic Engineering Approval Committee [3], the presence of these products in the supermarket shelves proves that the regulatory system is in shambles. India seems to have become a dumping ground for genetically modified products that have been rejected due to their risk to health elsewhere," said Rajesh Krishnan, Campaigner, Sustainable Agriculture, Greenpeace India.

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 [3].

"This is a serious violation of people's right to safe food as consumers are being kept ignorant of the presence of potentially dangerous GM ingredients in the food products. There is growing scientific evidence on the health hazards of GM foods across the world and it cannot be ignored any more. The mandate of keeping hazardous food out of the country should be the duty of the Health Ministry and it should take immediate steps to stop the illegal entry of these foods," said Dr Mira Shiva, of the Initiative for Health, Equity and Society.

Greenpeace is demanding that the Health ministry take notice of this serious violation and threat to human health and constitute the Food Safety and Standards Authority at the earliest.

In the meanwhile,

1. Effect an immediate confiscation of these products from the market, keeping in mind their potential health risk.

2. All imported food products should be embargoed and tested for any GM contamination and GM products found should be rejected.

For further information, contact

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

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

Notes to Editor

[1] Greenpeace had picked up 3 random products containing corn from Le Marche, a super market in Vasant Vihar in January this year. The products were sent to an independent laboratory for DNA analysis for confirmation of the presence of GM ingredients. The PCR analysis had confirmed the presence of the GM ingredients in the corn chips.
The test results are available with Greenpeace and can be shared on request.

[2] The study on Mon 863 was published in the American journal, Archives of Environmental contamination and toxicology dated May 2007, and is available on line 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."


[4] The RTI responses have been annexured.