Safe Food Guide: GMO Free Food
by Bhavani Prakash
An Update on 9th September, 2010
Greenpeace India have now launched Version 2 of the Safe Food Guide to highlight the companies which guarantee that they do not use genetically modified content, and those who don’t give such guarantee. A pocket guide has also been issued by them which show the brands in India that can be safely considered as GM free and those that cannot. According to them, “ While over 40 countries including Europe, Australia, New Zealand, China or Japan have opted for mandatory standards, the Indian Government is beating around the bush and not ensuring that labelling of foods containing GMOs is mandatory.”
According to the guide (Pg 5 of the fuller version), the most common ingredients that are found from large scale cultivation of GE crops such as corn, canola and soy are:
- Corn flour, meal, oil, starch,gluten and syrup
- Sweeteners such as fructose, dextrose and glucose
- Modified food starch*
- Soy flour, lecithin, protein, isolate, and isoflavone
- Vegetable oil* and vegetable protein*
- Canola oil (also known as rapeseed oil)
* These could be derived from other sources.
The detailed Version 2 of the Safe Food Guide outlines the companies in the Green List (who have assured they use no GM ingredients) and the Red List (who have not given such an assurance) . It’s interesting to see the results are not very different from the first version, however a few additions are to be seen.
The companies on the Red List (irresponsible/irresponsive to calls on position on GMOs) of Ver 2 of the Guide are quite an eye opener, as most of their products are really well known and popular brands in the Indian marketplace, some of which are also exported overseas.
Cargill India Private Limited
Godrej Hersheys or Godrej Beverages and Foods Limited
Agro Tech Foods Limited
The companies on the Yellow List who have some inclination towards a long term position on GMOs are Cadbury India Limited, ITC Limited, Ruchi Soya Industries, L T Foods Limited, Heinz India Private Limited, Bambino Agro Industries, Kohinoor Foods Limited
The companies on the Green List which are progressive and have a declared policy not to use GM ingredients now or in the future are Vippy Industries, KRBL Limited and Dabur India Limited.
It’s quite difficult to tell whether a vegetable, foodgrain or processed product that you’re eating has any Genetically Modified/Engineered Content (GM). The first major attempt in India to compile a list of GM free food was made by Greenpeace which launched the SAFE FOOD GUIDE in 2009. You may download the Guide here :
The guide is an important step in ensuring that consumers get transparent information, and can make intelligent food choices, especially as the labelling requirements on processed foods are lax in Asian countries like India.
The guide is an excellent read, and provides a good synopsis of the various field trials, and the environmental and health hazards of GM food.
It also outlines the brands which have GM content and those that are free. Of course, just because a brand is labelled free of GM content, doesn’t mean that those processed foods are necessarily healthy. Processed foods in general contain a lot of synthetic additives, and are not recommended for frequent consumption. They also consume a lot of resources in terms of production, packaging and distribution.
India Retailing provides a summary of the guide:
The issue is the use of Genetically Modified (GM) ingredients in foodstuffs. Greenpeace India today released its first ‘Safe food guide’, which has a ‘Red’ (avoid for now) and ‘Green’ (safe to use) recommendation.
The Green list comprises those companies that have assured Greenpeace they do not source GM ingredients. The Red list consists of companies that may have products containing GM ingredients.
Jai Krishna, sustainable agriculture campaigner, Greenpeace India, says, “The safety of GE crops as 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, abnormal growth of organs such as liver and kidney and many unpredictable effects. Therefore, this guide has an important role to inform consumers.”
There are no labellings regulations in India, according to Greenpeace. Currently, India does not allow the commercial cultivation of GM food crops, but there may be GM food ingredients in the food produced in India. Going by the 2008 figures given by Greenpeace, 56 GM crops are undergoing research in India. Of these, 41 comprise 169 varieties of cereals, oil seeds, cash crops, vegetables, fruit, pulses and spices. While a majority of these are in the laboratory stage, 11 food crops are undergoing various stages of field trial.
Further links you may be interested in:
Super Rice or Monster Rice? Why GM crops can’t feed the world This blog post also has several other links, including videos related to GM foods, and their impact on the environment and human health.
Please Note: Following a reader’s comment, we’ve updated the correct list of companies on 21st Jan 2011, as detailed in Version 2 of the guide
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