Monday, 30 January 2017

Roadside eateries use cheaper genetically engineered cotton oil

By Udumula Sudhakar Reddy

Oil from the genetically modified BT cotton seed is widely used at roadside eateries, a few bakeries and smalltime restaurants due to its low cost.

About 95 per cent of the cotton sown in AP and TS is of the BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) variety. Ginning mills in Guntur and other parts in the state supply BT seeds to solvent or oil extractors who supply cotton seed cake meal for fish, poultry and animal feed to dairies and edible oil for general consumption.

Interestingly, none of them is labelled as GE derivative or BT based. Executive director of Solvent Extractors’ Association of India B.V. Mehta said, “We are not labelling imported GM oils or the BT cotton oil seed produced here. There is no requirement to label them as per the procedures.”

The oil extractors are located in Bahadurpura in the city and at Adoni in Kurnool and in Guntur. Food safety assistant controller Balaji Raju said, “Cotton oil is edible and allowed. It is mostly used by small roadside eateries and some mix it with other oils and use it. Adulteration has to be checked. As per the Act, the cover should denote what is inside. So it would be legal if they label them as BT cotton seed oil.”

A gazette notification from the ministry of consumer affairs has made it mandatory for packaged foods using genetically modified products as ingredients to carry such labels from January 1, 2013.

Experts say approval for cultivating BT cotton crop is deemed to be approval for all its products and by-products. Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee member Dr S.J. Rehman said, “When the government allows commercial cultivation of BT cotton based on the recommendation of GEAC, it means all the products of the crop are deemed to be allowed. Before approving, they might have done all safety studies including of the cake and oil. Here the question is whether BT or non BT cotton oil is good for health has to be answered by medical professionals. When the bakers and eateries are using this cheap oil they should let the consumer know about it.”

Scientists say that studies revealed that there was no change in composition in the BT and non BT cotton seeds with respect to proteins, carbohydrates, oil, calories and ash content. According to Dr O.P. Govila, retired professor of genetics at the Indian Agriculture Research Institute, the seeds have passed all toxicological tests.

Biggest consumer

  • In 2015-16, India imported edible oil worth Rs 70,000 crore. Of this, 30 per cent was GM mustard oil.
  • India is one of the largest producer of oilseeds, accounting 27.51 million tonnes of nine cultivated oil seeds during 2014-15, or six to seven per cent of the world’s oil seed production.

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