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India is reported to have rejected a shipment of food aid from the United States because it might contain genetically modified (GM) food. According to the UK Financial Times the United States is appealing the decision on the grounds that it cannot guarantee that food aid is free of genetic modification because GM food is not separated from non-GM food in the United States.

India's decision follows a similar controversy in Southern Africa last year when Zambia refused to accept GM food aid, citing its concern that such food could be harmful to human health (see Zambia stands firm against GM).

India approved the planting of GM cotton early last year (see India approves cultivation of GM crops). But since then the government has been sending out mixed signals regarding its stance on genetic modification. For example, last year the committee that determines India's GM policy regularly held up approval of other such crops, including mustard, although government officials say that a decision is expected soon.

The US appeal is to be heard later this month. If it is rejected, "it could have negative implications for the commercial development of GM crops in India", says the Financial Times.

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