Chair of Genetic Approval Committee Replaced
NEW DELHI MAY 23 . The Special Secretary in the Ministry of Environment and Forests, V.K.Duggal, has been made chairperson on the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), a government regulatory body that clears decisions on the import and release of genetically-engineered organisms (gmos) in India. The committee was earlier headed by an Additional Secretary, Sushma Choudhury.
While officially it is being said that it was a routine re-allotment of work at the senior bureaucratic level, Ministry sources said that Ms. Choudhury's `rigid' stand on the import of corn soya blend into India was not being appreciated by all. The controversial issue involves the import of a 10,000-tonne corn-soya blend shipment by CARE India and the Catholic Relief Services as food aid . The shipment was rejected as it is supposed to be contaminated with Bt corn, Starlink, which has not been approved for human consumption as it is known to cause allergies. It has only been approved as cattle feed and all foods contaminated with Starlink had to be withdrawn from the U.S. supermarkets in 2000.
The National Alliance for Women's Food Rights, an NGO working on food rights, had alleged that the U.S.Department of Commerce had approached the Prime Minister's Office to get the consignment through following which the USAID representatives were called for a special hearing by the Committee, though the product was disallowed to be brought into the country even then. The consignment was rejected in November last year, before the special hearing held in March. The corn-soya blend imports by non-government agencies like CARE and CRS is financed by the USAID.
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