Food News

Will India’s new GM labelling laws advantage organic?

While conventional apple growers in the US protest that new Indian GMO labelling laws have shut them out of a valuable export market, organic producers sense an opportunity. 

On March 1 new trade rules came into effect in India that mandate ‘non-GM (genetically modified) origin’ and ‘GM free’ certificates for some agricultural imports. 

The new requirements apply to imports of all listed products, regardless of whether genetically engineered varieties of those products are in commercial production in the country of export. That has resulted in US apples being effectively shut out of India. 

According to a report at fruit.net, trade groups representing largely conventional apple growers are “working day and night” to reopen trade for their products. But they face a major problem: US authorities are currently refusing to issues certificates and non-GMO documentation. 

‘Technically closed’
As things stand, the Indian market is “technically closed” to US fruit apple growers, according to Mark Powers, president of the Northwest Horticultural Council (NHC). He says India is being unreasonable in its non-GM certification programme, and points out that no apple shipped to India from the Pacific Northwest is genetically modified.

But while conventional apple growers confront a significant loss of earnings, organic supporters see an opportunity. Commenting on a 64% reduction in apple exports bio India by Washington State growers, the prominent agricultural economist Charles Benbrook said on Twitter this week that India’s new GM labelling and certification requirement was “a harsh reminder not all countries share the US love for #GMO foods”, adding that while “banning all US apples is not a good thing for public health in India. But India can still import organic apples from the PNW with confidence”.

“We would hope that this would be an opportunity for US organic growers to expand their markets in India. The US exported over $90 million USD worth of organic apples around the world in 2020″

Opportunity for organic
US trade body the Organic Trade Association (OTA) told Natural Newsdesk that while it couldn’t speak for the Government of India, a law enacted under the Obama administration “explicitly recognizes that UDSA-NOP certified products do not require disclosure as ‘bioengineered’ (genetically engineered)  because the organic regulations prohibit the use of such technology”. 

Commenting on India’s new requirements for mandatory non-GMO levelling and certification, an OTA spokesperson told NN: “We would hope that this would be an opportunity for US organic growers to expand their markets in India. The US exported over $90 million USD worth of organic apples around the world in 2020. India is currently the United States’ 8th largest export market for organic apples, with 2020 exports totalling over $1 million.  

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