India plans to regulate GM farm imports - official
"We are currently formulating new rules and procedures which will be notified soon," J.N.L. Srivastava, federal agriculture secretary, told Reuters on the sidelines of an international conference of edible oils, which concluded on Monday.
He said the government's objective was not to stop imports but to ensure there was adequate information about the commodities that came into the country.
"Genetically modified food objects have to be accepted first in the country and health hazards have to be studied," he said.
Traders may have to obtain prior permission from the environment ministry to import GM items, he said.
Tougher norms would mainly affect rising imports of soyoil, extracted in many countries from genetically modified soybean, traders said.
India imported 1.05 million tonnes of soyoil between November 2000 and August 2001 compared with 497,635 tonnes in the same period of the previous year due to lower duty on the commodity.
The government imposes import levies of between 75 to 85 percent on edible oils but soyoil attracts only 45 percent duty due to the government's commitment to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
The country mainly imports soyoils from Argentina and Brazil, traders said, adding these two countries cultivated both GM and non-GM soybean crops.
Traders said the government may not allow imports of GM soyoil on health and environment grounds.
Srivastava said the move should not be seen as a non-tariff barrier to restrict imports of soyoil and other commodities.