(NaturalNews) The world's second most populous country, India, has finally given some teeth to an earlier draft ruling from 2006 that mandates the labeling of all foods that contain genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). And while the move represents yet another positive step towards full food transparency, details about how the new requirements will be implemented and enforced are still lacking, say some, which raises a number of important questions about how to approach future grassroots GMO labeling initiatives elsewhere throughout the world.
As reported by the U.K.'s Daily Mail, India's "Legal Metrology Rules" for packaged commodities came into effect on January 1, 2013, and one of its provisions states that "every package containing the [sic] genetically modified food shall bear at the top of its principal display panel the letters 'GM.'" The assumption, of course, is that people will recognize the letters GM and understand them to mean "genetically-modified."
But just because many members of the natural health community and select others understand GM to mean "genetically modified" does not mean that the average person will also recognize it as such. Though India is far different both culturally and socially than the U.S., it is safe to assume that printing the letters "GM" at the top of all food packages will come across as confusing or even meaningless to many Indian shoppers just as it would to many U.S. shoppers, adding further problems to already-belabored GMO labeling efforts in India.
India's GMO labeling law lacks adequate framework for implementation, enforcement
Also of concern is the fact that no real logistical framework has been established at the governmental level to guide how food products will be tested for GMO content. According to Digital Journal, rules for enforcing the labeling law have yet to even be crafted by the Food Standards and Safety Authority of India (FSSAI), which is the group in charge of implementing the law. Similarly, no thresholds have been established to determine a minimum level of GMO content or contamination that would require labeling.
"It is a good step, but it is being done without any preparation at all," said consumer rights activist Bejon Misra to reporters about what he says are the deficiencies of the new labeling law. "We don't know how this rule will be implemented or how it will be applied to products with GM content that are being imported or how the violators will be prosecuted."
"People may confuse it as an acronym for 'gram,'" he added, in reference to the mandate that the letters "GM" be emblazoned at the top of all food packages that contain GMOs. "The label should explicitly say 'this product contains genetically modified ingredients.'"
Similar sentiments were expressed by GreenPeace's Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner Rajesh Krishnan, who told members of the media that official notification about the law's enactment "is too sketchy and does not mean anything" because of the law's poor execution. Time will tell whether the Indian government successfully develops a workable plan for implementing GMO labeling throughout the country, or whether it fails to give the law enough teeth to make it work as intended.