Decks cleared for import of de-oiled soya meal for livestock feed; BKS condemns the permission
The issue of import of de-oiled soya meal for livestock feed has taken an interesting turn. While the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying allowed the All India Poultry Breeders’ Association to import 15 lakh metric tonnes of de-oiled soya meal, the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) has subsequently condemned this permission. BKS finds the reason cited by the government for permission, viz. that it “does not contain any living modified organism”, ridiculous and disgusting.
The issue of import of de-oiled soya meal for livestock feed has taken an interesting turn. While the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying (DAHD) allowed the All India Poultry Breeders’ Association (AIPBS) to import 15 lakh metric tonnes (MT) of de-oiled soya meal, the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) has subsequently condemned this permission. BKS finds the reason cited by the government for permission, viz. that it “does not contain any living modified organism”, ridiculous and disgusting.
The AIPBS had earlier demanded in a letter dated August 6 that “15 lakh MT of soya de-oiled cake/meal solvent extracted (non-food) obtained from GM (genetically modified) soya seed through solvent extraction” be imported for manufacture of animal feed. As the AIPBS considered the import to be urgent, it had dropped the earlier request for “duty-free” imports.
In its reply dated August 11, DAHD cleared the decks for the said import. It said that it had consulted the matter with the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), the Ministry of Commerce, the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), Department of Revenue and the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). As a result of the consultations, DAHD came to the conclusion that “soya de-oiled cake can be imported” subject to payment of existing duty tariff.
The reply said that the MOEF&CC had no objection from the “environmental angle” because “soya de-oiled and crushed cake does not contain any living modified organism.” Hence, in this case, the question did not arise of subjecting the import to Schedule I of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) import policy approval.
According to the letter, DAHD said that the FSSAI was of the view that “anything which is non-food (not consumed by humans) is not within the ambit of FSSAI Act, 2006 and therefore animal feed is not regulated by FSSAI.”
However, BKS, which claims to be the largest farmers’ organization in the country with more than 50 lakh active membership, has condemned this permission for the said import. In a letter to the Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying dated August 13, BKS says that it “has time and again demanded that the products and by-products of agricultural commodities involving GM technology/event at any stage should not be allowed, even for import, without a robust a policy guideline in place.”
The BKS letter conveys that “the reason cited while granting the permission for import of soya cake” is “not only ridiculous but disgusting”. It terms the approach of the dealing interfaces at the highest decision-making places as “casual”.
The farmers’ organization points out the “comprehensive implications” the reason cited will have on the import of GM crops. Its argument runs as follows: “Interestingly, any layman understands that the GM technology/event-exploited product or by-product never contains any living modified organism. Even the soybean seeds before crushing for oil will be devoid of any living modified organism. Therefore, considering the pretext of permission, all the products where the living modified organism is directly not involved in any product will be permitted for import. If this is the case, then factually all the available products or by-products made up of using GM crops qualify for import.”
Besides, the BKS letter argues, there is little justification for allowing soya cake imports at this juncture when a “surplus of maize and other protein-rich fodder options available in the country are battling price appreciation.”
The BKS letter concludes with its long-time demand for “an inter-ministerial group to draft a policy for research, production and use of GM commodities.” It also expects “appropriate actions” on the part of the ministry and expresses some hope that the permission for imports may be revoked. It adds that it desires to be consulted on policy matters pertaining to the farmers’ welfare.
It is a moot question if the government will be willing to alter its decision or even lend its ear to the suggestions from BKS. If the government turns a deaf ear to the BKS letter, we may well expect a roller-coaster ride for GM imports.