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Why Introduction of Bt Brinjal should be opposed Firmly?

GM crops have failed to deliver the promised benefits and are posing escalating problems on the farm. Transgenic contamination is now widely acknowledged to be unavoidable. — Bharat Dogra

When the first ill-advised efforts were made to introduce Bt brinjal in India in 2009-10, there was strong opposition in the country resulting in a moratorium on this GM (genetically modified) food crop. Despite this now again such ill-advised efforts backed by some powerful forces are being made. It is time again for citizens of India to protect their food and farming system and environment from this GM food crop. Some vested interests involved with Bt brinjal have tried to divert attention from real issues by saying that this time there is indigenous variety, but much more important basic fact that GM food and farming crops are dominated by powerful multinational corporations who are just using this as a pretext to somehow force open the gates for introduction of GM food crops in India.

An eminent group of scientists from various countries who constitute the Independent Science Panel have said in their conclusion after examining all aspects of GM crops - “GM crops have failed to deliver the promised benefits and are posing escalating problems on the farm. Transgenic contamination is now widely acknowledged to be unavoidable, and hence there can be no co-existence of GM and non-GM agriculture. Most important of all, GM crops have not been proven safe. On the contrary, sufficient evidence has emerged to raise serious safety concerns, that if ignored could result in irreversible damage to health and the environment. GM crops should be firmly rejected now.”

According to a report by eminent scientists comprising the Independent Science Panel, “The consistent finding from independent research and on-farm surveys since 1999 is that genetically modified (GM) crops have failed to deliver the promised benefits of significantly increasing yields or reducing herbicide and pesticide use. GM crops have cost the United States (US) an estimated $12 billion in farm subsidies, lost sales and product recalls due to transgenic contamination. ....The instability of transgenic lines has plagued the industry from the beginning, and this may be responsible for a string of major crop failures.”

In his widely acclaimed book ‘Genetic Roulette’ Jeffrey M. Smith has summarised  the results of a lot of research on the health hazards of GM crops/food,  “Lab animals tested with GM foods had stunted growth, impaired immune systems, bleeding stomachs, abnormal and potentially precancerous cell growth in the intestines, impaired blood cell development, misshapen cell structures in the liver, pancreas, and testicles, altered gene expression and cell metabolism, liver and kidney lesions, partially astrophied livers, inflamed kidneys, less developed brains and testicles, enlarged livers, pancreases, and intestines, reduced digestive enzymes, higher blood sugar, inflamed lung tissue, increased death rates, and higher offspring mortality.”

The extent to which genetic engineering is playing havoc with nature is evident from this quote from ‘Genetic Roulette’, “Spider genes were inserted into goat DNA, in hopes that the goat milk would contain spider web protein for use in bullet-proof vests. Cow genes turned pig skin into cowhides. Jellyfish genes lit up pigs’ noses in the dark. Arctic fish genes gave tomatoes and strawberries tolerance to frost.”

In addition to all this there is the ethical dilemma faced by vegetarians who may find it difficult to select food when animal genes are introduced into plant genes. The choice becomes even more difficult (and not just for vegetarians) when even human genes are introduced into food crops. 

Examples of the opinion of eminent scientists about the serious risks and hazards of GM crops can be multiplied. The question that arises is - then why are some big multinational companies so eager to promote these hazardous and risky crops. The answer is that these companies are not interested in improving food security, they are only interested in tightening their grip over the world’s food and farming system so that they can squeeze huge profits out of it, regardless of any adverse impacts on farmers, consumers and environment. Hunger may worsen, fertile fields across vast areas may get contaminated, large number of unsuspecting people and animals may fall seriously ill-they are not seriously bothered about all this as long as they can tighten their control and increase their profits.

In fact if we look at the trends in world food and agriculture in recent decades then these have been dominated by the increasingly desperate efforts by huge multinational companies to increase their dominance of the world food and farming system.

In a review of recent trends titled ‘Food Without Choice’ (Tribune) Prof. Pushpa M. Bhargava (who was nominated by the Supreme Court of India in the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee to protect safety concerns), internationally acclaimed authority on this subject, drew pointed attention to the “ attempt by a small but powerful minority to propagate genetically modified (GM) crops to serve their interests and those of multinational corporations (MNCs) (read the US), the bureaucracy, the political setup and a few unprincipled and unethical scientists and technologists who can be used as tools.”

Due to the threat of contamination, it is difficult for normal crops or organic crops to remain free from the impact of GM crops once these have been released. As worldwide concern for food safety grows, it is likely that there will be increasing demand for organically grown crops and crops which are not contaminated by GM crops. Therefore we will be surrendering premium world markets if we allow our crops to be contaminated by GMOs.

Some powerful forces allied to GM crops tried to spread a myth. According to this myth most scientific research supports GM crops. While demolishing this myth Dr. Bhargava wrote, “There are over 500 research publications by scientists of indisputable integrity, who have no conflict of interest, that establish harmful effects of GM crops on human, animal and plant health, and on the environment and biodiversity. For example, a recent paper by Indian scientists showed that the Bt gene in both cotton and brinjal leads to inhibition of growth and development of the plant. On the other hand, virtually every paper supporting GM crops is by scientists who have a declared conflict of interest or whose credibility and integrity can be doubted.”

Elsewhere in this article he commented, “The central government departments that have been acting as peddlers of GM technology-probably in collusion with MNCs marketing GM seeds– have shown little respect for law.”   

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