November 19, 2003
Source: Hindustan Times
GMO certification important for food exporters

'WITH MORE and more countries, especially the European countries, imposing restrictions on import of genetically modified organism (GMO) food items, the relevance of GMO testing and certification will play a crucial role in India's food exporters in the coming years. At present, AQUAS is the only company in the country that provides testing and certification facilities to the food exporters. Aquas' vice president Manan Bhat was recently in the city to participate in the SOPA convention. He spoke to Ramesh Shankar about the pioneering company in the country.

Q. What is GMO testing all about?
It is all about detecting the content of GMOs in a particular food item. Genetically modified organisms (GMO) are the result of new methods of genetic engineering applied to plant life. GMO foods are accepted by some countries and rejected by others. So, GMO testing is very important food exporters as without GMO testing and certification, food items will not be allowed to be imported in those countries have been imposed.

Q. Which countries have imposed restrictions on GMO foods and why?
The European Union countries, Japan, Korea, Sri Lanka etc are some of the countries where such restrictions have been imposed and the number would increase in the coming years. World over, various stakeholders in agrobusiness like consumers, government, traders and manufacturers are increasingly becoming aware and anxious of genetically modified crops, foods and fibre. They are all anxious about its effect on the human body.

Q. Something about your fledging company?
Our company. Avesthagen Quality Agriculture Services (AQUAS) is the first company in the country in the field of GMO testing. It is a biotech research driven company based in Bangalore that was established by Dr. Villoo Morawala Patell in 1997. We have entered into an alliance with global leader in GMO identification - Genetic-ID. So, we are now in a position to provide the agriculture and food processing industry internationally accepted GMO testing services. In fact, we assist the food processing companies to certify their products as GMO-free through out testing and we provide non-GMO certificate called CERT-ID.

Q. What is the role of your company in food exports?
Our company has an important role to play in the food processing industry in the country as without GMO testing and certification it will be well nigh impossible to export food items to a large number of countries where restrictions have been imposed on GMO food items. And the number of such countries is fast increasing. Our non-GMO certified products will have competitive edge over others and the first mover advantage and greater acceptance among the importing countries.

Q. What is the procedure of GMO testing?
Any company can come to an agreement with our company for a GMO testing of their products, which is done in 10 days time including the transition period. We never disclose the company's name and the result of the testing is given in a sealed cover to the company officials of the company only.

Q. Who are your intended clients?
Our clients include bakery and confectionary products, cattle feed supplements, dry fruits and nuts, dyes and colour additives, edible oil and allied products, flavours and aromatics, food processing plants, fresh, dried, preserved and dehydrated fruits and vegetables, liquors, mineral water and beverages, meat and poultry food, coffee, tobacco, spices and derivatives, seeds, rice, wheat, pulses and food grains, milk and dairy products, etc.

Q. How accurate is the GMO testing by your company?
We use the PCR polymerase chain reaction method in our GMO testing which is the ultimate testing method applied in order to meet customer contracts during food exports. PCR is the gold standard for GMO testing. GMO tests based on PCR are used worldwide to verify contracts and regulatory compliance. PCR detects genetically modified DNA directly and is highly sensitive, at least one hundred times more sensitive than other methods. AQUAS offers PCR based tests for all GMOs. In addition, PCR can quantify GMO content more accurately and it works with a much wider range on processe.