In a first, India set to import 15 lakh tonnes of genetically modified soyameal
India is all set to import 15 lakh tonnes of genetically modified (GM) soyameal after the Union Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change and the Food Safety and Standard Authority of India (FSSAI) gave their nod to it. This would be the first time that India would import GM soyameal in view of the demand by the poultry industry. SK Dutta, the joint commissioner of the Animal Husbandry Commissionerate wrote to Bahadur Ali, president of All India Poultry Farmers and Breeders Association (AIPFBA), giving the nod for the imports. Ali and other poultry farmers have been asking for duty free imports as domestic prices of the GM soyameal have skyrocketed. The letter, however, stated that the import would be allowed as soya de-oiled cake as it is a non-living organism. Speaking to The Indian Express, an official from the Union Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairy said, “The import of genetically modified organisms and living modified organisms is restricted. However, soya de-oiled cake or meals do not fall under these categories. It falls under the non-living organism category.”
Besides the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change, FSSAI, and the department of animal husbandry had consulted the ministry of commerce, director general of foreign trade and the department of revenue about the matter. The letter shows the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change had ruled that the matter would not require a permission from the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee. “Since soya de-oiled and crushed cake does not contain any living modified organism, this ministry has no objection to the import of soya cake or meal from the environmental angle. Hence, import of soya de-oiled cake of meal will not be subjected to the Schedule of 1 of GEAC import policy approval as it is a non-living organism,” the letter stated. Soyameal is the protein rich solid left after the oil is expelled from the seed and is used as a raw material for poultry feed. Since the last few months, domestic prices have skyrocketed with soyameal, which was earlier trading at Rs 40/kg, touching Rs 110/kg. As a result, production cost for poultry farmers have also crossed the Rs 100/kg-mark while realization remained at Rs 80-90/kg. The Poultry industry had blamed speculators for this price rise. While the formal notification allowing the import is yet to be issued by the DGFT, the poultry industry said they are hopeful of a duty-free import regime as against the 15 per cent duty at present. Also, it would take 45 days before the imports land at Indian soil. The landed price of imported meal is expected to be Rs 40/kg. According to the Agriculture Ministry soyabean production was estimated at 128.97 lakh tonnes during 2020-21, which is lower than the year’s target of 146.74 lakh tonnes.
Earlier, only import of soya oil was allowed because oil/fat technically contains no genetic matter. However, this is the first time that the decks have been cleared for import of soyameal. The move comes at a time when the harvesting of new soyabean crops will begin in 4-6 weeks from now. The only GM crop allowed to be imported to India to date is cotton. Normally, usage of GM technology is governed by GEAC but as the letter shows, this was waived off given the non-living nature of the material. The issue of GM crops has been controversial with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) affiliate Swadeshi Jagaran Manch vehemently opposing such crops. When The Indian Express tried to reach the organization, SJM national co-convenor Ashwani Mahajan said, “This is a new development. We have seen the letter. We are studying it. These issues are technical and have longterm implications.” “We will examine it and take a view,” He added.