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SEA urged govt to remove soyabean oil from criteria for labeling it as ‘GM food’

SEA urged govt to remove soyabean oil from criteria for labeling it as 'GM food'

SEA urged govt to remove soyabean oil from criteria for labeling it as ‘GM food’

The Solvent Extractors’ Association (SEA) of India has urged the central government to remove soyabean oil from the criteria for labeling it as ‘GM’ (genetically modified).

Atul Chaturvedi, the President of SEA, stated in a memorandum to Sudhanshu Pandey, Secretary, Department of Food and Public Distribution, and Rohit Kumar Singh, the Secretary, Department of Consumer Affairs stated that the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution’s Department Consumer Affairs (Weights and Measures Unit) had issued a letter dated June 11, 2021, to the Principal Secretaries of Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) of all States and Union Territories requesting that they enforce Legal Metrology Rules with respect to ‘GM’ labeling of soyabean oil as a GM food.

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While stating that soyabean oil is not a GM food in and of itself, he stated that its origin — that is, soybean (processed elsewhere) — may be a GM food. ‘Once soybean is crushed and refined, there are no traces of GM traits in refined soyabean oil. In addition, only refined soyabean oil is sold for human use,’ he added.

Quality Indicators

The FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) quality parameters for locally produced (non-GM soybean) oil and imported soyabean oil (which could be derived from GM seeds) are the same. The industry and wholesale trade do not store soyabean oil obtained from domestic and imported sources separately.

He stated that most of the time, crude soyabean oil from domestic and international (imported) sources (which could be derived from GM seeds) are stored together in the same oil tank and thus, after refining, in one oil tank together.

Atul Chaturvedi stated that the FSSAI has not notified the test methodology for determining GM material in oils and vegetable fats, nor has the FSSAI provided the test method for GM in its Manual of Methods of Analysis of Foods – Oils and Fats – Revised Edition of June 22, 2021, nor has any competent authority in the Government notified the test methodology for detection of GM material in oils and vegetable fats.

Furthermore, neither in-house research labs of vegetable oil manufacturing/refining companies nor NABL-accredited laboratories have the capability of testing for GM material in soybean oil.

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A segregated system is impractical

He stated that it is not possible for the industry to maintain a distinct system for storage of domestic soybean oil generated from non-GM soybean seeds and imported soybean oil produced from GM soybean seeds because it would require a significant investment in separate storage tanks, pipelines, and so on. Despite this, it will not be a foolproof system.

He emphasized that the enforcement of mandatory ‘GM’ labeling on soyabean oil produced from GM soybeans will result in an artificial premium for soyabean oil made from non-GM soybeans, resulting in inflation. Though there is no difference between the two soybean oils for customers, the trade may leverage consumer sentiments to overcharge consumers by some premium on soyabean oil generated from non-GM soybean with no nutritional or health benefits.

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Already, the country is paying a premium price for edible oils. The introduction of ‘GM Food’ labeling on soybean oil will disrupt the supply chain, leading to price increases and inflation, he claims.

In the broader interest, the SEA President recommended that the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food, and Public Distribution evaluate and advise the Legal Metrology Division to withdraw/rescind the order.