STC Number - 240

Biotech labelling and import approval process regulations

Maintained by: India
Raised by: United States of America
Supported by: Argentina; Brazil; Canada
First date raised: June 2006 G/SPS/R/42, paras. 15-16
Dates subsequently raised:
Number of times subsequently raised: 0
Relevant documents: G/TBT/N/IND/17, G/TBT/N/IND/12
Products covered: 30 Pharmaceutical products
Primary subject keyword: Food safety
Keywords: Food safety; Genetically modified organisms (GMOs); Human health; Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT); Transparency
Status: Not reported
Date reported as resolved:

Extracts from SPS Committee meeting summary reports

In June 2006, the United States referred to India's notifications to the TBT Committee affecting trade in biotechnology products. The Ministry of Commerce and Industry's "Supplement to the Government of India's Foreign Trade Policy, Condition 18" (G/TBT/N/IND/17) would require that its Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) provide pre-approval of imports. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare's proposed mandatory labelling requirement for biotechnology products (G/TBT/N/IND/12) would also require pre-approval by the GEAC. The United States requested that these measures be notified to the SPS Committee to allow an opportunity for comments and that their implementation be delayed until a number of issues could be resolved. In particular, the United States was concerned about: the lack of clarity with regard to the scope and process of the proposed measures and their scientific justification; what procedures would be in place for pre-approval of imports and once approved; what procedures would be in place domestically and at the ports for enforcement; and what was the scope and the justification to require that the process of production be included on the label. Without clarification of these questions, US exports to India would be negatively affected.
Argentina, Brazil and Canada shared the concerns raised by United States and asked that Members be given an opportunity to comment on the measures before their adoption. Canada indicated that it would provide comments on the relevant TBT notifications and also invited India to notify its measures to the SPS Committee and take into account comments of other Members.
India took note of the concerns raised and stressed that the proposed regulation on pre-approvals was not new as it had already been notified in 1989. The purpose of the current proposal was to make the requirements mandatory. The objective of the mandatory labelling requirement was to provide correct information to consumers about the nature of the food. India was committed to following the transparency requirements and would consider notifying the relevant measures to the SPS Committee and would take into account comments received before the measures entered into force.