Scientists warn against GM foods
By Rashme Sehgal
Asian Age, June 5 2008
New Delhi: Scientists warn that the genetically modified (GM) foods that are set to hit the market will do so without having undergone mandatory safety assessments.
Thirty-two crops are currently being researched across 111 government and 50 private institutes with 14 having entered the trial stage.
These, they decry, will increase health risks to the general public.
BT brinjal is expected to hit the market within the next six months without undergoing the necessary trials. Switzerland and other European countries have placed a moratorium of 12 years for all GM foods.
Dr Pushpa Bhargava, a genetic biologist and former vice-chairman of the National Knowledge Commission, warned against the flouting of scientific norms to push GM foods into the market.
Speaking at a "Food Safety, Bio Safety and GM Foods" meet organised by Navdanya, Dr Bhargava stated that no comprehensive risk assessment had been done on the effect of Bt plants on either the soil or the surrounding fauna.
Dr V.S. Vijayan, chairman of Kerala State Biodiversity Board, pointed out that tests currently being done to study toxicity and allergenecity were being conducted by Monsanto, the world’s largest supplier of seeds, which is pushing for this technology in India, or else by groups who received the samples by the applicant itself.
Key chronic toxicity tests that have long term effects that can result in cancer and other diseases have not been conducted.
It was shocking that in West Bengal, trials on Bt okra started in mid-August 2007 on the basis of approval by the panchayat members.
"What knowledge do panchayats have about Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) and GM foods especially since they are susceptible to all kinds of pressure? The State Biotechnology Coordination Committee had not approved these trials and the agriculture university monitoring them had given it a damning report," Dr Bhargava added.
Many scientists believe many of the tests being claimed may never have been conducted in the first place.