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Message Subject Frankenfoods for YOU
Poster Handle ShadowDancer
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Big Pharma , Health & GM Food

A new study raises questions about the safety of genetically modified crops for human consumption, saying it could cause liver and kidney damage.

According to the study, animals fed on three strains of genetically modified maize created by the US biotech firm Monsanto suffered signs of organ damage after just three months.

This assumes significance as the technology for Bt brinjal--cleared by Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), India's biotech regulatory body for human consumption--has also been supplied by Monsanto.
The fate of the new brinjal variety will be known only after the current round of public consultations gets over.
Environment minister Jairam Ramesh is holding the consultation process, as he feels that the clearance involved "crucial issues of human safety".

The findings only came to light after Monsanto was forced to publish its raw data on safety tests by anti- GM campaigners.

They add to the evidence that GM crops may damage health as well as be harmful to the environment.

The figures released by Monsanto were examined by Gilles-Eric Seralini of the University of Caen.

Seralini is professor of chemistry and molecular biology at the French university.

Seralini has called for more studies to check for long-term organ damage. "What we've shown is clearly not proof of toxicity, but signs of toxicity," he told New Scientist magazine.

"I'm sure there's no acute toxicity but who's to say there are no chronic effects?"

The experiments were carried out by Monsanto researchers on three strains of GM maize.

Two of the varieties contained genes for the Bt protein while a third was genetically modified to be resistant to the weedkiller glyphosate.

Monsanto only released the raw data after a legal challenge from Greenpeace.

Seralini concluded that rats which ate the GM maize had "statistically significant" signs of liver and kidney damage as compared to rats given a non-GM diet.

Female rats fed one of the strains also had higher blood sugar levels and raised levels of fatty substances caused triglycerides, Seralini reported in the International Journal of Microbiology.

The analysis concluded, "These substances have never before been an integral part of the human or animal diet and therefore their health consequences for those who consume them, especially over long time periods are currently unknown."

Monsanto claimed the analysis of its data was "based on faulty analytical methods and reasoning, and does not call into question the safety findings for these products."

Similar fears have been raised about human safety and the environmental fallout of Bt brinjal, promoted by Monsanto and the Maharashtra-based Mahyco, which contains genes of the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt).

The bacterium produces certain proteins that kill insect larvae of bollworm, a major cotton pest, and other insects.

The Bt genes responsible for the toxic protein can be transferred into cotton, soya, corn or brinjal--making them produce their own natural pesticides.

Several genetically modified food crops are awaiting test reports and approval in India.

Several Indian states have already rejected the new crops and decided to go GM- free. The latest to join this list is Karnataka.

While rejecting the new variety, chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa pointed out that "the state is the fifth largest producer of brinjal in the country.

We are growing more than 40 varieties of the vegetable. We will not allow anything that may put our farmers in a difficult spot".

He acknowledged the concerns of the farmers and consumers and said he would have a discussion with experts and farmers community in this regard.

The issue has also divided the central government. Science minister Prithviraj Chavan has said the genetically altered brinjal--which contains an antibiotic gene--was safe for human consumption.

Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar feels the decision of the GEAC is final, while Ramesh says the final decision on the approval given by the genetic engineering regulatory body lies with the government.

While genetically modified corn--which has been found to be toxic--may not have reached Indian shores, many Indians may already be eating the controversial corn through a variety of imported products made out of GM corn.

Chips made out of corn are being imported regularly into India by American manufactures via dealers in Singapore and Taiwan.

In June last year, the GEAC was accused of allowing the sale of imported chips with suspect GM material without any testing.

An import consignment of Doritos, a chips brand owned by PepsiCo, was detained by Customs authorities at Nhava Sheva port in Mumbai as it was found to contain genetically modified corn in 2008 as well.

Following this, the importer wrote to the GEAC seeking a 'no objection certificate'. The GEAC cleared the consignment based on an undertaking given by the company that the chips did not contain GM corn.

Instead of getting the chips samples tested or going by results of earlier testing, the GEAC merely decided "to convey 'no objection' for release of the consignment subject to the condition that if it is later found to contain genetically modified material, the importer is liable for prosecution under the relevant law".

The GEAC merely advised Customs officials at the port to retain two packets of each flavour on a random sampling basis for further verification, if necessary.


The Mumbai firm had imported Doritos Chips in three flavours--Nacho, Taco and BBQ--from Brilliant Market Private Limited in Singapore.

But the company claims the chips were produced in Taiwan from locally grown corn.

Greenpeace has been highlighting the presence of illegal GM food in India. According to Greenpeace, the organisation in May 2008 had provided scientific evidence that Doritos corn chips contained at least two different traces of GM corn varieties, MON 863 and NK 603.


A similar variety of the corn NK 603 was found to cause reproductive disorders by Austrian government scientists in November 2008.
[link to www.wethepeoplewillnotbechipped.com]

The Bt genes responsible for the toxic protein can be transferred into cotton, soya, corn or brinjal--making them produce their own natural pesticides.

Several genetically modified food crops are awaiting test reports and approval in India.

Several Indian states have already rejected the new crops and decided to go GM- free. The latest to join this list is Karnataka.


 
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