Objection from the Coalition for GM-Free India to constitution of panel on GMOs and Foods under FSSAI

From: GM Free India <indiagmfree@gmail.com>
Date: Fri, 2 Aug 2019 at 14:17
Subject: Our objection to constitution of panel on GMOs and Foods under FSSAI
To: <ceo@fssai.gov.in>
Cc: <chairperson@fssai.gov.in>, Preeti Sudan <secyhfw@nic.in>, <hfwminister@gov.in>


The Chief Executive Officer,

Food Safety & Standards Authority of India (FSSAI),

FDA Bhawan, Kotla Road, New Delhi 110002


Dear Shri Pawan Agarwal,


Greetings! This is about our serious objections to the constitution of the Panel on GMOs and Foods under the FSSAI (Ref.: https://www.fssai.gov.in/cms/Panel-on-Genetically-Modified-Organisms-and-Foods-f-s.php).

To begin with, such a Panel is supposed to have food safety as its main mandate, and not be a promotional body for GMOs and GM foods. We find that it is populated with agricultural sciences experts including plant and fish breeders with biotechnology as their specialisation. Some of the Panel members are GM crop/fish developers themselves.

It is clear that there has been no thought applied to what kind of expertise is required to assess the safety of GM foods, and then going about locating independent experts to fill up those particular slots. FSSAI should understand clearly that GM crop development science is not the same as safety science. The following are more details that inform our strong objection to this Panel, and we demand that it be scrapped and re-constituted, especially now that applications are being sent from GEAC to FSSAI for various GM foods.

  • HavingDr S R Rao as the Chairperson of this panel will make this body into a promotional body for GMOs and GM foods. He is not qualified to fulfil the mandate of this Panel and it is not clear why a GM crop promoter, and an agriculture scientist (with specialisation in plant pathology) is heading a food safety panel. He is a Member of the Golden Rice Humanitarian Board, which is a direct conflict of interest with the role assigned in this Panel.
  • What is shocking is that it is not just Dr S R Rao who has populated this Panel of FSSAI, but others like Dr TR Sharma of NRCPB, who is a plant breeder applying modern molecular biotechnology. NRCPB is a GM crop developing institute, and Dr Sharma’s specialisation is in genomics, plant biotechnology and plant disease resistance. Once again, nothing to do with health safety.
  • Two scientists brought in from the same department of Manipur University into the Panel is perplexing (Dr Gurumayum Jitendra Sharma and Dr Hirak Kumar Barman). Dr GJ Sharma’s credentials in health safety assessment are not clear.
  • An internet search reveals that Dr Hirak Kumar Barman could be a scientist in ICAR’s Central Institute of Freshwater Aquaculture (ICAR-CIFA). Once again, he is a developer of transgenic Indian carp. His current research is on fish transgenesis and targeted gene editing.
  • Similar is the case with Dr Wazir Lakra. It is not clear what is the relevance of his expertise in this FSSAI Panel.
  • Two scientists, Dr Vidya Gupta and Dr Ashok P Giriseem to be from the same Biochemical Science Division of CSIR’s National Chemical Laboratory in Pune as per the listing on FSSAI website. Dr Ashok Giri’s research areas are about plant defence mechanisms, resistance mechanisms in insects to phytochemicals and pesticides, and metabolic pathway analysis and engineering. We could not locate a Dr Vidya Gupta on NCL’s website.
  • Dr Bhupinder Singh from IARI’s Nuclear Research Laboratory appears to have diverse research projects’ experience but nothing related to health safety assessment, once again.
  • Dr Neeraj Verma from AKS University is a plant pathologist, and from agricultural sciences expertise.

We demand from FSSAI an explanation to the citizens of India on what are the terms of reference of this Panel on GMOs and Foods, how and why were these particular experts chosen (whose expertise is not the question being asked here, but about the relevance of that expertise in this Panel), and how a citizen is supposed to be assured about the safety of her/his food from the risks of GMOs and transgenic foods.

We demand that this Panel constitution be scrapped straightaway and that a re-constitution take place with INDEPENDENT food/health safety experts including genetic toxicologists, nutrition scientists, epidemiologists, other public health experts, experts from Indian Systems of Medicine (ISM) since food constitutes an important part of these systems etc. Thank you.



Rajesh Krishnan


Coalition for a GM-Free India


FSSAI Letter – from Coalition-Panel on Genetically Modified Organisms and Foods

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