Monsanto, a US based agricultural bio-technology corporation that promotes Genetically Modified (GM) crops in India through one of its companies, Mahyco (Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company), has developed Bt brinjal, a genetically modified variety of brinjal.
The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), the clearing authority for all GM crops in India has cleared Bt brinjal on the basis of test results submitted by Mahyco. The crop now awaits a nod from the government before it is made available for commercial cultivation.
Mr Jairam Ramesh, Minister of State for Environment & Forests has said that since there are “strong” views both for and against GM crops, he would conduct a series of consultations with scientists, agricultural experts, farmers, consumer groups & NGOs next year in order to decide the future of Bt brinjal.
What do you reckon will happen after these consultations? The politicians, bought off handsomely by Mahyco, will ignore the protests of the consumer groups & NGOs and give the green light to Bt brinjal for commercial cultivation.
Consumer activists who managed to get hold of Mahyco’s test results through the RTI sent the results to independent scientists in Europe for review. The scientists wrote back, showing that the tests conducted by Mahyco were inadequate - the longest toxicity tests were only for 90 days, which does not assess long-term effects of the toxins such as development of cancers or tumors, and the tests were conducted using only one Bt toxin rather than the hybrid toxin present in Bt brinjals. They also cited inconsistencies in Mahyco’s interpretation of the results & mentioned that Bt brinjal is unfit for human consumption.
- Bt brinjal produces a protein in vegetable cells that induces antibiotic resistance. This is not only a problem (for obvious reasons), it also indicates that Mahyco is using old GM technology as the current technology used by developed countries has overcome the problem of antibiotic resistance.
- Bt brinjal is toxic. When fed to animals, it affected their blood chemistry, blood clotting time & total bilirubin (indicator of liver health).
- It led to weight gain & intake of more roughage in lactating cows even as it increased milk production by 10-14 percent, an effect similar to that brought about by hormonal treatment.
- Rats fed Bt brinjal got diarrhoea, had increased water consumption & decrease in liver weight.
- It is unsafe to consume animals (chicken, goat, cow etc.) that have been fed Bt brinjal.
- The Bt toxins have never been authorized for human consumption & are known to be harmful to health
So this highly toxic Bt brinjal might be unleashed upon us (Indians) with complete disregard for our health & safety, and guess what? We wouldn’t even know we are consuming this dangerous product thanks to the absence of a labeling regime for GM crops in India!!
Just to put things into perspective – GM foods are banned in Europe, and they face widespread protests in the United States. While currently the US does allow GM foods to be sold in the market, they are required to be labeled so clearly & accurately, so the consumers can decide whether they wish to purchase them or not. Indians however, remain lab rats available for exploitation.