Forum for Biotechnology and Food Security
Please circulate 25mar02
The Indian Government is again on the verge of approving GM cotton, against the wishes of millions of poor cotton farmers whose livelihoods are threatened by the large-scale agribusiness that these crops enable. Approval could happen tomorrow. The letter below, to the Indian Prime Minister, is from India's Forum for Biotechnology and Food Security. Concerned organisations should fax Government Ministers TODAY to register their concerns.
Please fax (or email if you have no fax) these people today:
- Shri T. R. Baalu, Union Cabinet Minister (Environment & Forests) Fax +91 11 3354590 / +91 11 4362222 firstname.lastname@example.org
- P.V.Jayakrishnan, Secretary of State for Environment & Forests: Fax: +91 114362016 email@example.com
- Dr. C. P. Thakur, Minister for Health and Family Welfare: Fax: +91-11-3016648 firstname.lastname@example.org ; email@example.com
- Shri Nitish Kumar, Agriculture Minister: Fax: +91 11 3386004 / +91 11 3384555 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Shri Shripad Yesso Naik, Minister of State for Agriculture: Fax: +91 11 3386098 email@example.com
Forum for Biotechnology and Food Security
7 Triveni Apartments, A-6 Paschim Vihar, New Delhi - 110063, India
25 March 2002
Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee,
Hon'ble Prime Minister of India,
POISONING THE FOOD CHAIN - New evidence against GM food
Respected Prime Minister,
We are very distressed that the decision to release the Bt cotton variety of Mahyco-Mosanto is being pre-empted by chief ministers and senior government officials. Even before the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) has had a chance to hold its meeting to evaluate the field trials of the crop, senior officials and ministers have announced that the Bt cotton will be approved.
As you are aware, the genetically modified crops and foods are being rejected worldwide as fresh evidence on harmful effects of GM products are piling up. The GM industry also is spreading misinformation about the status of GM crop production in China to buttress their claim for its release in India. We are presenting the factual position below.
Recently a study conducted in India by a senior doctor from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences has come up with damning evidence against the genetically modified foods. New evidence links genetically modified foods to the dreaded diseases such as AIDS, cancer and Hepatitis B.
We hope that you will direct the Ministry of Environment Ministry and the GEAC to take into account all relevant facts and damning reports emanating from the medical profession before taking a final decision on the release of Bt cotton.
We are attaching the report of the AIIMS doctor for your reference. The report, filed by the Press Trust of India on March 3, 2002, is based on a paper presented by Dr S Prakash, Senior Biochemist, Department of Gastroenterology and Human Nutrition, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). Also attached is another report published in The Hindu under the name by Mr Devinder Sharma, a respected agriculture and food policy analyst.
Raj Kumar Gupta
Phones: 5433310, 98102-74369
Transgenic food can enhance AIDS, Hepatitis B
Press Trust of India March 3, 2002
New Delhi: Even as the final verdict on the safety of genetically modified food is still awaited, an Indian expert has raised fears on their consumption claiming transgenic food could enhance several auto-immune diseases and also pose problems of toxicity.
"If a plant is genetically modified at any time either by conventional breeding techniques or genetic manipulation, it ultimately results in the introduction of new proteins which can bring about drastic changes in its properties," S Prakash, Senior Biochemist, Department of stroenterology and Human Nutrition, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS), said in a paper presented at a recent National Convention on Transgenic Rapeseed-Mustard.
Such genetically modified plants, with changes in their amino acids, can inhibit the self-formation of antibodies, substances which assist in combating harmful foreign bodies, thereby enhancing auto-immune diseases such as Hepatitis B and AIDS, Prakash said.
"Foreign DNA fragments that are not fully digested in human stomach and intestines can also play an important role in aggravating such diseases," he said. Prakash said certain genetically-engineered products called "neutraceuticals," which have recently hit the market with promises of reducing the risk of cancer and lowering levels of cholesterols, could actually do more harm than good.
These neutraceuticals are manufactured by artificially adding antioxidants--compounds that scavenge free radicals reducing the risk of cancer--as opposed to certain plants which naturally contain these substances, he said.
Acceptance by the human body of antioxidants in their natural form from plants is 100 per cent while studies have shown a very low percentage of acceptance from artificial sources.
Moreover, the body uses only that amount of antioxidant which it requires the rest remain unutilized. The excess antioxidant reacts with other sensitive compounds in the body leading to the production of toxic chemicals, he said adding excess Vitamin C (also an antioxidant) has been linked to gastrointestinal cancer.
Prakash said some of the biotechnology companies were misleading people into using genetically modified products manufactured by them.
China's GM Foray: Myth and Reality
The GM industry in India, which had last year illegally distributed genetically modified seeds of Bt cotton without government approval, is now using China as a crutch by spreading misconception about that country's foray into transgenic cotton.
However, a scientific paper in the January 25, 2002 issue of the Science, written by Chinese scientists Hugng at al., explodes the myth. These facts were revealed at the Asia-Pacific Expert Consultation on Biotechnology held at Bangkok from March 21 to March 23, 2002.
Myth: Chinese agriculture is fast emerging as GM agriculture.
Reality: Chinese scientists have developed 46 GM food crops. Not a single of these food crops is permitted to be grown commercially. After holding on for long, China has recently been pushed by the US to accept its GM soya.
Myth: GM cotton is grown in China on 700,000 hectares of land and the acreage is growing fast.
Reality: China allows GM cotton to be grown only in a demarcated area. In these areas only GM cotton can be grown and nothing else. This takes care of the gene flow to other crops and other environmental hazards. Can we do it in India?
Myth: If China is not worried about GM cottonseeds getting into food chain, why should India?
Reality: In China, cotton seeds does not get into the food chain. It is neither fed to the cattle nor edible oil extracted.In India, Oil meal from cottonseed is fed to the cattle and cottonseed oil is commonly used as edible oil. Here is it mixed in the vanaspati, so the consumers do not even know what they are consuming.
Myth: Bt cotton increases yields.
Reality: No increase in crop yield (in Bt cotton) has been reported from China. It has only reduced the cost of pesticide. The GM industry is India claims that its Bt cotton increases yields by 70 per cent. Since China is not reporting any increase in Bt cotton yields, it is futile to accept the claims of the Indian Department of Biotechnology, which says that the yields of Bt cotton increases by 70 to 80 per cent.
Myth: If we do not allow GM crops, we will be left behind.
Reality: Apart from China, which has not allowed a single GM food crop to be grown, South Korea has not release a single GM variety and Thailand does not permit even the field trials. The European Union has put a moratorium on further release of GM crops. Australia, New Zealand and Japan have very strong labelling requirements for GM products.
GM Food Disasters Of Mice and the
By Devinder Sharma
The first genetically modified (GM) food product to hit the market was a brand of tomato called "FlavrSavr". Before it was made available commercially in supermarkets, scientists had fed it to rodents in the laboratory. The rodents had refused to eat the GM tomatoes, which contained an alien gene to make it ripen more slowly. When force-fed, the rodents had fallen sick.
"Flavr Savr" was a commercial disaster. Since then, the rich and industrialised western countries, mainly the United States, has brought over a score of genetically modified foods onto the market shelves. Ably backed by the powerful American propaganda machinery, we have been invariably told that these 'novel foods' are no different from the conventional foods. And joining the deafening chorus is the 'shouting brigade' - agricultural scientists, print and electronic media, bureaucrats and politicians - all desperately looking for financial support to survive in the era of fast shrinking public funding.
Such is the desperation for these finance seeking sectors of the 'shouting brigade' that any voice that ultimately restricts their source of funding is met with a combined roar. It happened when the British scientist, Dr Arpad Pusztai, reported harmful effects in rats fed with GM potatoes. His independent research showed damage to the kidney, thymus, spleen and gut of young rats. Dr Pusztai not only lost his job but became a persona non grata for the entire scientific community. Several other researchers who ventured to question the veracity of scientific facts suffered at the career ladder.
In fact, any criticism of the biotechnology industry's 'cutting-edge' technologies is met with sharp innuendoes and abuses. The basic objective being to run-down any opposition that may have a negative impact on the fortunes of the funding agencies.
Albert Einstein had once warned: "We should be on our guard not to overestimate science and scientific methods when it is a question of human problems; and we should not assume that experts are the only ones who have a right to express themselves on questions affecting the organization of society."
Great scientists have always had the foresight and vision to see where their own community can go wrong. Great scientists do not necessarily have to be educated at Berkeley, Harvard or Cambridge. And great scientists have always stood for 'good science' and not 'sound science' as advocated by the industry. Science is for the good of the humanity and cannot be compromised for the sake of profits that it can bring for the corporate world.
While the international scientific community spares no effort to brand GM food as 'substantially equivalent' to conventional food, essentially to boost the sagging fortunes of the biotech industry, a 17-year-old Dutch undergraduate has created scientific history by his simple experiments of truth. He conclusively demonstrated that not everything endorsed by Nobel laureates and the so-called distinguished scientific bodies like Britain's Royal Society is scientifically correct. Hinze Hogendoorn may not find a place of honour in the pro-GM stuffed Royal Society, but has surely put the distinguished scientific body to shame.
Following the basic scientific norms, Hinze too conducted his experiments on mice. He picked up 30 female six-week old mice from a herpetology centre. These mice were originally bred to feed snakes. And like every net-savvy teenager he too searched the web, this time on how to take care of mice.
Based on what was spelled out, he bought some rodent mix and Kellogg's and Quaker's cereals and oatmeal that was specified to be 'GM-free'. This formed the staple diet for the mice. For GM foods, he used maize and soya.
In another experiment by a farmer, two stacks of food were left in a barn infested with mice - one containing GM crops and the other non-GM. To his horror, he found that the mice completely ate the non-GM fodder but refrained from touching the GM stuff. Hinze, on the other hand, had let loose the mice in big cages with the two piles of food - GM and non-GM--stacked in four bowls. The mice - obviously unaware of the virtues of genetically modified 'functional foods' - gave their verdict: they overwhelmingly rejected the GM food!
He conducted a series of other tests to find out what happens when the mice are force-fed with GM foods. Significantly, one mouse, which was fed with GM food, died for unknown reasons. While the others, which were fed on GM-diet, initially looked heavy but by the end of the experiment actually lost weight.
The rival group of mouse that was on non-GM diet, ate less and gained more weight, and continued to gain weight. Equally more worrisome were the behavioural changes that the diet had induced in the mouse during the experiments. The GM-fed mice "seemed less active", "more nervous and distressed" and were completely at loss.
"Many were running round and round the basket, scrabbling desperately in the sawdust, and even frantically jumping up the sides, something I'd never seen before," he was quoted as saying.
The Royal Society, however, refrains from commenting on Hinze's experiments. To restore its losing credentials after the way it tried to doctrine the media to rubbish Arpad Pusztai's experiments with rats, it has in the first week of February released a report on Genetically Modified Plants for Food Use and Human Health. Under pressure from the British and for that matter the European consumers who continue to question the scientific claims on food safety, the Royal Society has called for tougher regulations before GM food is passed as safe for human consumption. As a face saving device, it has drawn attention to the potential risks for babies, who are more susceptible to changes in the nutritional make-up of the food they eat. Stating that consumption of genetically modified DNA has no effect on human health, as if the babies are not humans, the report is full of contradictions. But still, I wonder what the Royal Society would advise the British Prime Minister Tony Blair who has publicly gone on record saying that he finds the GM food safe for even his children.
With the Royal Society proving him wrong, Tony Blair may find it worthwhile to invite Hinze Hogendoorn to help his children conduct simple experiments with mice to find out what is safe for them. And until then, he should direct the British High Commission offices world wide to refrain from issuing press releases stating that GM food is safe.
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