India is a land of fresh, healthy, diverse food traditions guided by 5,000 years of ayurveda — the science of life, the science of eating good, diverse food for a healthy life. Food is sarv aushadhi.
The labelling rules framed by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) are anti-national, anti-public health, anti-science and anti-democracy.
They are anti-national because through these rules the FSSAI will destroy our food sovereignty by criminalising our indigenous and healthy food cultures and local swadeshi economies based on indigenous artisanally-processed food, and legalising that which should be banned, such as GMOs in our food, and junk and industrial food whose contribution to chronic diseases and metabolic disorders is now scientifically established.
It is unscientific and anti-public health because it is removing the knowledge of food quality from public mind, and equating good food and bad food through the total quantity of fats, sugars, carbohydrates — erasing the difference between natural, artisanal, wholesome food, and refined sugars, synthetic and artificial sugars, refined and hydrogenated trans fats.
At a time when the scientific community recognises that quality and method of processing matters, the FSSAI is imposing an outmoded Western reductionism paradigm on India with its sophisticated science of ayurveda, which has guided us over millennia to eat right and healthy.
The FSSAI rules are undemocratic because the FSSAI is advised by the same corporations that have spread unhealthy food across the industrial world, and now want to impose it on India — Coke, Pepsi and Nestle. This translates into corporate food fascism. Society pays both through the destruction of its food freedom and undemocratic imposition of junk food and processed food culture.
The FSSAI draft has a section: Labelling of genetically engineered or modified foods. All food products having total genetically engineered ingredients five per cent or more shall be labelled. In other words, up to five per cent will not be labelled.
By introducing a clause that allows five per cent GMOs in our food, the FSSAI is acting in violation of India’s laws. It is misleading Indians about what they are eating and denying them the right to know what is in their food. Further, India is even going against dominant international standards that do not allow more than one per cent GMOs.
The only GMO food that was attempted in India was Bt brinjal. After public hearings across the country, the ministry of environment put a moratorium on its cultivation and commercialisation. This decision was based on the democratic will of Indians. Also, the GMO mustard is in the courts.
There are many examples in the draft rules for labelling which are unscientific, misleading and in fact a way to force unhealthy industrial foods on Indian citizens, and rob them of their healthy options of indigenous healthy foods.
The proposed rules state that all flour will have a label on gluten.
India is not the US where industrially bred wheat has led to gluten allergies and celiac disease. Desi Indian wheat does not cause gluten allergies. That is why, in an act of biopiracy, Monsanto tried to take a patent on Indian wheat (Patent No 0445929 B1) to try and get a monopoly on the market created by the growing gluten allergy epidemic. We challenged the biopiracy patent and won.
Industrial breeding and industrial production of wheat based on uniformity, combined with industrial processing which damages the structure of wheat has led to an epidemic of gluten allergy.
India’s wheat has been bred for diversity and healthy eating. Our flour, until recently, was ground artisanally and was whole flour with all nourishment intact.
Industrial flour, called “refined” and “enriched”, has been stripped of its nutrients and fibre. Synthetic nutrients and fibres are then put back in the flour.
The rules have a section on fake fibres, which will destroy the fibre-rich whole food flours of diverse grains in our diets and accelerate the chronic disease epidemic that is already a heavy health burden on Indian citizens since junk foods and industrial foods entered India.
“Dietary fibre” now includes:
Carbohydrate polymers, which have been obtained from food raw material by physical, enzymatic or chemical means.
Synthetic carbohydrate polymers.
The degradation of our diets has gone hand in hand with the spread of industrial food and industrial food processing.
We need process labelling that clearly describes the process of production and processing, not unscientific product labelling based on equating of unhealthy foods and healthy foods, hiding health hazards of fake food and also the health benefits of real food.
Equating healthy fats and trans fats
India, the land of rich biodiversity of edible oils — mustard, sesame, coconut, linseed, groundnut, etc — is now 70 per cent dependent on imports of palm oil and GM soya oil. Solvent extraction plants use neurotoxin and hexane to extract oil from soya or oil palm. In 1998, we did a “Sarson Satyagraha” to protect the indigenous diversity of our oilseeds and edible oils.
FSSAI equates bad fats which are unfit for eating with good fats necessary for health. “Fat” means total lipids, including saturated fat, monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat and trans fat.
Our artisanally processed coconut and mustard oils are now being recognised as healthy, in spite of all the pseudo-scientific propaganda against our edible oils for decades by the industrial food processing lobby which has been promoting trans fats in the diet, while displacing healthy oils and fats, through their influence on food policy, trade policy, scientific research and the huge money they spend on misleading advertisements. Trans fats help increase the shelf life of processed food and allow processed food to stay solid at room temperature. According to a 2012 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, a mere 40 calorie per day increase in trans fats increases the risk of heart disease by 23 per cent. The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has also attributed heart attacks to trans fats. Around the world trans fats are being removed from food.
The FSSAI draft has unscientifically defined sugars in terms of chemical reductionism, equating good and bad sugar, instead of the quality and method of processing.
“Sugars” means all monosaccharides (glucose, fructose, etc) and disaccharides (maltose, sucrose, lactose, etc).
However gur is very different in the process of production, the quality and the health impact from industrial sugars and fake sugars such as high fructose corn syrup.
Indians deserve to grow, produce, distribute good food for all, instead of bad food and fake food imposed by the unscientific, undemocratic, anti-national labelling rules for the profits of the GMO and junk food industry at the cost of people’s health and our national food and health sovereignty, our Anna Swaraj.