Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Is India ready for Genetically Modified crops ??

I have been witnessing tremendous brouhaha over the BT brinjal during the last few days. I really wonder if opening the doors to BT brinjal will bring disaster ?If you have not been following the issue, here's what's up:

From Rediff:
A host of studies show that GM crops have adverse effects on animals and humans. Consider some. In 1996, the UK launched more than 50 long-term safety studies on GM foods. A team under Arpad Pusztai of the prestigious Rowett Institute tested GM potatoes engineered to produce an insecticide called GNA lectin by feeding them to rats. The feed adversely affected virtually every organ of young rats, including the brain, liver and testicles. There were signs of 'immune system damage'.
Rats fed non-GM potatoes spiked with the lectin were relatively unaffected even when fed 700 times the amount of the lectin the GM potato produced. The team concluded that the damage was caused by 'the genetic modification process itself'.
In 2003, nearly 2,500 sheep died after grazing in Bt cotton fields. DDS instituted another sheep study. Two groups were fed two varieties of Bt cotton and the third non-Bt cotton. Sheep from the first two died within six weeks. The non-Bt cotton-fed sheep remained healthy.
Adverse effects have been reported from the Philippines, the US and Germany [ Images ] from GM maize, cotton and soyabeans, including allergies in humans and permanent damage in pigs, cows and chickens. In the US, a GM food supplement called L-Tryptophan killed about 100 people and produced swelling, coughs, rashes, pneumonia, mouth ulcers, nausea, muscle spasms, difficulty in concentration and paralysis among 1,000 people.
This is only one set of problems with GM. There are others too. Studies suggest that gene insertion may disrupt the seed DNA, the protein inserted by the Bt gene may cause problems, and the foreign protein may be different than that intended. Besides, genes may get transferred to human systems.

Kiran Majumdar Shaw, CEO Biocon:

“We would really like to ensure that we take this whole issue of Bt brinjal on a scientific basis and not on unfounded fears, creating a fear psychosis,” "Bt is a very safe science and regulated technology”.

View point of Yoga Guru-Baba Ramdev:

"How can a government make a mockery of its country? GM (genetically modifies) food can lead to kidney disorder, liver disorder, cancer and physical disorders among millions of Indians. Doesn't government feel shame to mull over commercial cultivation of GM crop?".
Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh :Ramesh is facing angry protests of farmers in Hyderabad and Kolkata over a move to produce the genetically modified Bt brinjal. Protesters are demanding that the government reverse its decision. Ramesh said this was the first time he was facing such an unbecoming and unwarranted protest. Last year, Ramesh had promised additional consultations with farmers' groups, NGOs, scientists and other stakeholders before the release of Bt brinjal.

From EconomicTimes:
Leading scientist Pushp Bhargava, who was also the Supreme Court nominee to the country's biotech regulator, warned that if Bt Brinjal is allowed it would be the "single largest disaster". "Scientists all over the world have opposed GM foods. Renowned scientists like Rupert Sheldrake and many others have said that they don't support GM foods. They have written to India saying that it should not be allowed. If despite all this and the public hearing against Bt Brinjal, it is released it will be the single largest disaster in the country," Bhargava is also the independent nominee of the Supreme Court to the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), the country's biotech regulator.
Bhargava stressed that when the entire European Union had denied Bt products, the only reason wellknown faces in the biotech industry like Kiran Mazumdar Shaw were vouching for its release was business interests.

My viewpoint:

Now, after going through all this, all i can say is that Jairam Ramesh would have a tough time to go ahead with Bt brinjal, when he has just 10 days to take a decision. As the results of bt brinjal are not yet established and there is sufficient evidence that GM crops may have adverse effects, I feel that GM crops in India would take some more time of research and proper testing. Once it is established that there are no ill-effects of GM crops, then only the govt should go ahead with GM crops. Moreover, if the government decides to go ahead with GM crops, it should make sure that they are properly differentiated from normal crops and customer should know what he is eating !

So, what do you feel ? Should we go ahead with GM Crops ? Are they really safe OR do you see some hidden motives of business people and govt in pushing these crops ?