Out of all the food we eat, vegetables and fruits are truly nature’s gifts. They represent a freshness and purity that is like truth itself, a part of our meals and the sacred offerings we make in a temple.
But did you know that the tomato you chop with trust and the brinjal you value for its benefits, is fast being contaminated? First, First we ingested pesticide residues presuming it can be washed off, now the inside of your food will be thousand time more toxic and potent. Artificially and genetically engineered avatars of foods are gaining swift inroads into India.
Nature allows a tomato to be crossed with tomato, a brinjal with brinjal, a human being with another human being. But with genetic engineering, scientists breach the species barriers set up by nature.
Did you know that the genes that are inserted into genetically engineered crops transfer into the DNA of the bacteria inside your intestines and might turn it into living pesticide factories, possibly for the rest of your life?
This means that long after you stop eating genetically engineered foods, your own gut (stomach) bacteria might be producing these foreign proteins, which might be allergenic, toxic or carcinogenic. GM foods, which have been banned in so many countries across the world, are entering India, a country that is home to a rich resource of all kinds of crops, vegetables and fruits.
As consumers, you have the right to an informed choice and demand safe food. To dispel your doubts, we have answered some frequently asked questions.
1. What is Genetically Modified (GM) Food?
Genetically Modified (GM) food is food in which genes from one species is transferred into the DNA of another species to give it certain new traits. The genes are taken from non plant sources like bacteria, viruses, spiders, scorpions, fish and pigs, and forcibly inserted into the genomes of brinjal, potatoes, corn, cabbage, tomatoes, etc.
Consider these bizarre potent trial combinations - Gene from a pig is inserted in cabbage; the gene of a human being into rice; a gene from a fire fly into peas, and now into cows; fish into tomatoes, spider into a goat, scorpion into corn, soil bacterium into brinjal.
2. Is genetic engineering precise?
The current technology of GM foods is based on obsolete information and theory, and is prone to dangerous side effects.
It is not possible to insert a new gene with any accuracy, and the transfer of new genes can disrupt the finely controlled network of DNA in an organism. The new gene could, for example, alter chemical reactions within the cell or disturb cell functions. This could lead to instability, the creation of new toxins or allergens, and changes in nutritional value.
Economic interests have pushed it onto the market too soon.
3. How is GM Food different from normal food?
In appearance, there is no difference between GM crop and normal crops. The difference lies in its genetic make up – GM food has an alien gene inserted in it which is a thousand times more toxic. For example - you will not be able to differentiate a normal brinjal from a Bt brinjal. They look alike.
4. Which crops are being tampered with in India?
Bt brinjal trials are in advance stage on Karnataka's famed traditional Brinjal varieties - Udupi Mattu Gulla. The uniqueness of the Gulla varieties, preserved for over 4,000 years by local farmers, awaits erosion at the hands of agricultural biotechnologists. The following crops are facing advanced field trials - Genetically modified cabbage, corn, cauliflower, chickpea, cotton, groundnut, maize, mustard, okra, pigeon pea, potato, papaya, rice, sorghum, and tomato.
5. Who is behind Bt Brinjal in India?
M/S Mahyco (Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company), the same company responsible for developing and selling (along with Monsanto) Bt Cotton in India, is developing Bt Brinjal in India. This transfer of technology was apparently free-of-cost, with the public sector institute allowed to develop, breed and distribute its own Bt Brinjal varieties on a cost-to-cost basis
6. Are GM Foods Safe?
The development of GM food crops will lead to irreversible evolutionary level changes in the natural eco-system. More worrying are the harmful impact these foods will have on your health. The risk of contracting precancerous cells, and mild to advanced renal diseases, will multiply. Scientists’ warnings are proven correct -When GM crops and foods were first introduced in the 1990s, scientists raised concerns that genetic modification of foods was imprecise and unpredictable
FROM ALLERGIES TO CANCER
*A recent research report by the Austrian Government states that consumption of one of the GM Foods - Bt Corn – for instance can lead to infertility.
*In UK, a study found that soya allergies skyrocketed by 50 per cent after GM soyabean were imported.
*Russian Academy of Sciences reported six time higher mortality rate for new-born rats when the mother rat was fed on a diet of modified soya.
*Italian researchers have found that GM soya affected the liver and pancreas of mice.
* Even seed giant Monsanto’s own studies have shown that some rats fed on GM Corn had smaller kidneys and variations in the composition of their blood, while the rats fed on normal maize were healthy.
* Australia had to even abandon a decade-long attempt to develop genetically modified peas when an official study found it caused lung damage.
* Independent analysis of Mahyco’s Bt Brinjal biosafety data proved that the Genetically Modified (GM) Brinjal is unsafe for human consumption. The study team led by Prof. Gilles-Eric Séralini of Committee for Independent Research and Information on Genetic Engineering (CRIIGEN), France concluded that Bt brinjal release into the environment, for food, feed or cultures, may present a serious risk for human and animal health and the release should be forbidden.
7. Who are the most susceptible to the ill-effects of GM foods?
GM foods pose grave heath risks to everyone but children are especially vulnerable.
• Children have young, fast-developing bodies and are influenced the most by GM foods.
• Children are more susceptible to allergies. Children are more susceptible to problems with milk. Children are more likely to have nutritional problems. Children are also in danger of antibiotic resistant diseases.
Thousands of schools around the world, particularly in Europe, have decided not to let their kids be used as guinea pigs.
8. Then why are the Governments Not Careful?
The governments are hand-in-glove with the food industry.
Remember, it took 50 years for governments all over the world to finally accept that cigarette smoking is injurious to health. In these 50 years, millions died from smoking-related diseases and ailments, while governments looked the other way. Cigarette smoking, which was the biggest killer in America, has now been pushed to the second spot. Obesity (obviously the result of industrially produced junk food in the market) is now the biggest killer – killing over 4 lakh people every year in the US alone.
9. So, does anyone benefit from GM Foods?
GM Foods will not benefit nature, the environment and certainly not mankind.
The only beneficiaries are a handful of trans-national agro giants --- Monsanto, Syngenta and Dupont, to name a few. They have made an entry through the laboratory and the crop fields and are finally dictating what’s on your plate so as to garner more profits by monopolising food supplies. What happens to you is not their concern, it never was.
10. One would think that the United States of America has tough regulations for GM foods?
You are quite mistaken. The US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) is a corrupt body. It has over the years been approving GM crops and testifying them as ‘substantially equivalent,’ which means no different in any significant way than the normal crops. This is simply absurd. It turns out that the FDA’s policy written in 1992, claimed it is “Not aware of any information showing that the foods created from these methods differ in any meaningful or uniform way.” That’s the quote in their policy upon which they made the statement that they don’t need to test anything, “If the biotech companies tell us that these foods are safe, there are no further questions by the FDA.”
It may shock you to learn that 44,000 pages from the FDA files were made public due to a lawsuit. It turns out that the overwhelming consensus among the FDA’s own scientists was that the foods could create allergies, toxins, new diseases and nutritional problems. They had urged their superiors to commission long- term studies, but were completely ignored by the bureaucrats and their concerns brushed under the carpet.
Did you know?
• In the 1980’s, nearly 100 Americans were killed and more than 5,000 fell sick from a disease called ‘Eosinophillia-Myalgia Syndrome (EMS) which was traced to a genetically engineered brand of GM soya (L-tryptophan) produced by a Japanese company Showa Denko. The company had paid US $ 200,000,000 to avoid damage trials.
The US government is aggressively pushing GM foods, to protect and safeguard the commercial interests of its agribusiness giants. The Indian government too is accepting GM foods without any questions being asked. Commercial interests take precedence over human lives
11. Doesn’t India have a regulatory body?
Yes. In fact, India has a three-tier regulatory process. There are three committees, of which the apex one is called GEAC (Genetic Engineering Approval Committee). It is an inter-ministerial body housed in the Ministry of Environment & Forests.
12. What role does GEAC play in controlling GM foods?
Nothing. GEAC is a mere rubber stamp for the bio-technology industry. It has always brushed aside the objections raised by civil society groups, and has unabashedly upheld the claims of the private seed and agribusiness companies. It is primarily for this reason that the Ministry of Science & Technology is now pushing for a single window clearance for GM Foods.
13. Then, why are people not taking recourse through the legal process?
There are a number of lawsuits that have already been filed and pending. The Supreme Court of India is hearing a petition filed by Aruna Rodrigues, Devinder Sharma, Rajiv Barua and P V Satheesh, seeking a moratorium on GM foods. There are separate law suits pending before the Supreme Court filed by Suman Sahai and Vandana Shiva.
14. Isn’t that enough?
Certainly not. You cannot let the Supreme Court decide what you should be eating.
15. So what can I do as a Consumer?
You can do a lot.
Firstly, consciously ask the seller, arouse his curiosity – be it the local vegetable seller or the super market chain vendor. Ask him whether he is selling normal brinjal or Bt brinjal.
If the vegetable seller does not know whether it is normal Brinjal or Bt Brinjal, ask him in turn to find out. IT IS YOUR RIGHT TO KNOW IF IT IS Bt BRINJAL. Don’t buy if you are not sure.
Remember, Your Right to Safe Food begins with your knowledge about food and what you are buying. Say NO to Bt Brinjal.
Secondly, it is also your responsibility to create greater awareness about the dangerous impact of GM foods among your colleagues, friends and family members.
16. And what can I do as a parent?
1. Educate yourself, and stay informed. A good place to start is viewing “The Hidden Dangers in Kids’ Meals”, by Jeffery Smith, a 28 minutes video, which presents a compelling case for the dangers of GM foods to children of all ages.
2. Your prayer is to safeguard the health of your loved ones, especially children. If you love your children, you should be saying NO to GM Foods.
17. What is happening with GM foods in the rest of the world?
180 countries in the world do not allow GM foods.
All over the world, regions and even nations are demanding an end to GM crop cultivation. Twenty-two countries in Europe have regions wanting to be GM-free. States in Australia, regions in New Zealand and Brazil, the countries of Venezuela, Zambia, Sudan, Angola, and others, all want to be GM-free. Thus, world markets are shrinking.
In 2007 over three million Italians signed a petition, declaring their opposition to GM crops in their country. France, Hungary, Italy, Greece, Austria, Poland and Romania have all banned Monsanto's Mon 810 GM corn because of its documented hazards to biodiversity and human health. In Europe over 175 regions and over 4,500 municipalities have declared themselves GM-free zones. In Spain alone this includes over 50 municipalities and regions like Asturias, the Canary Islands and the Basque country.
Also view this link on worldwide initiatives ban on Gm foods :: http://www.twnside.org.sg - Third World Network, Penang, Malaysia
For further information view www.indiagminfo.org or write to the “MyRighttoSafeFood” campaign on firstname.lastname@example.org
Suggested links for your reference - http://www.responsibletechnology.org/GMFree/AboutGMFoods/HealthRisksBrochure/index.cfm
Join our efforts at Coalition for a GM - Free India building a healthy society. We cannot allow a few private companies to play with our health and the health of our children.