The Environment Ministry restricts import of GM soya bean and soy seeds; directive to DGFT

In a guideline issued to the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), the Environment Ministry restricted the import of GM soya bean and soy seeds without its prior approval. But, experts point out that such a measure won’t be enough to prevent the proliferation of GN soya seeds in the Indian farming sector for various reasons. Unless it is extended to the plant quarantine authority and the customs department, the new directive could only have limited scope, say reports.

Traders are taking advantage of India’s duty-free import slab of a few African nations in the category of Least Development Countries and import soya bean and soy seeds to evade a high import duty of around 45 per cent. In a year, around 80,000 tonnes of soya bean and soy seed have been imported into India illegally by routing consignments through African nations like Ethiopia and Benin, say reports.

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Since India is yet to allow cultivation of GM soya bean, the seed imported through African nations might pass on to farmers, who will then cultivate it. So, directing the DGFT to seek permission before importing GM soya bean and soy seeds won't be enough to curb this possibility, experts point out. Interestingly, the new directive is not applicable to the soy oil import, which is already exempted from the GM guidelines.