ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network
17 February 2003


1.Govt Flashes Green Signal For Case-by-case GM Food Imports
2.China aims to be top global non-GMO soybean grower


Govt Flashes Green Signal For Case-by-case GM Food Imports
Ashok B Sharma

New Delhi, February 16: The government, bowing to the pressures from foreign aid agencies [read U$], has decided to review its strategy and allow imports of genetically modified (GM) foods on case-by-case basis.

An inter-ministerial meeting is convened by the new chairperson of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), Sushma Choudhary on February 26 with a view to fix the responsibility for monitoring such imports by concerned government agencies, departments and ministries. Representatives from Union ministries of environment, agriculture, health, industries and commerce and from the department of biotechnology are slated to attend the meeting convened on February 26.

A sources in the Union environment ministry said, "Many foreign aid agencies are aggrieved at the decision taken earlier by the GEAC regarding imports of GM food for humanitarian aid. They have urged the GEAC to suggest to the government for a change in the policy."

Ms Choudhary since her assumption of the office as chairperson of the GEAC last month, has already begun the exercise of undoing what her immediate predecessor, AM Gokhale had done. Mr Gokhale when he was the GEAC chairman had strongly turned down the request of the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and CARE-India to allow them to import GM corn-soya blend from US for distribution amongst school children and the poor. In July, 2002, CARE-India intended to import 15,000 tonne of GM soya-corn blend while the CRS intended to import about 8,000 tonne. Pending, the decision of the GEAC, both the CRS and CARE-India booked a consignment of 1,000 tonne.

But this consignment could not land at the Indian shore as the GEAC finally rejected the plea for such imports in November, 2002.

Being aggrieved at the GEAC's decision, the CARE-India and the CRS knocked the doors of the one-man Appellate Authority constituted under GMO Rules, headed by the former Union environment secretary, Vishanath Anand. The Appellate Authority fixed the date for hearing on February 11. But before the actual hearing could take place both the CARE-India and the CRS withdrew their petitions.

The full bench of the GEAC at that time was apprehensive that the said food consignment from US might contain traces of the hazardous Starlink Corn, which is not yet approved for human consumption by the USFDA. When the GEAC took its final decision already there were reports of traces of Starlink Corn slipping into US consignments to Japan, South Korea and Australia. The GEAC also asked the CARE-India and the CRS to get the consignments certified from the exporters that it does not contain any traces of Starlink Corn or any hazardous GM products, which the exporters failed to oblige.

Majority of the members of the GEAC were also of the view that India should not allow imports of those GM products which are not yet evaluated in the country or approved by the GEAC. Imports for research may be an exception.


2. China aims to be top global non-GMO soybean grower

Reuters News Service
Feb 14, 2003

BEIJING - China aims to develop its northeast into the world's largest producer of non-genetically modified soybeans over the next five years in a move to compete with foreign beans, the Agriculture Ministry said yesterday. High-yielding strains, with oil content two percentage points higher than the 17-18 percent norm in China, would replace some imports, the ministry said in a crop development plan for the next five years on its Web site,

The varieties would be grown in 127 counties in the areas which cover northeastern provinces of Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning and in the northern region of Inner Mongolia, the plan said.

The plan "will build the northeast area into the world largest producing area for non-genetically modified soybeans with high oil content", it said. "The aim is that by 2007, output of high oil crops in the northeast would be increased distinctly. Imports of high oil content soybeans would be controlled at a rational level," the plan said.

China's consumption of soybeans was expected to reach 33 million tonnes in 2007, of which high-yielding varieties would account for 25 million tonnes, the ministry said.

China's soybean consumption in 2002/2003 (October to September) was likely to be 30.28 million tonnes, of which imports would be 14 million tonnes, said the state-owned analyst group, the China National Grain and Oil Information Centre.

Domestic soybean output last year was a record high of 16.5 million tonnes, the ministry has said.

China, one of the world's biggest soybean consumers and the top global importer of the oilseed, has imported more than 10 million tonnes a year in recent years to meet expanding capacities at crushers.

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