Thursday, July 23, 2009

Genetically Modified Food

My dear friends,
Today I have something to share with all of you and I would want an honest opinion from everybody on the said matter. I am sure everybody has a very strong opinion on this issue.
So here goes...
I work for an NGO called AID-Association for Indian Development. It's a huge organisation with its branches all over India.
So I get this mail about a campaign called I AM NO LABRAT. I read all I could and I went with my friend to volunteer in the campaign. It was held in Delhi Haat, a spot which attracts a lot of people for its authentic hand made Indian crafts.

To be very honest, I did not know anything about GM foods before I joined this organisation and I can say that most of the Indian population must still be unaware of how important this issue is.
So what exactly is the meaning of Genetically modified foods?
This term is most commonly used to refer to crop plants created for human or animal consumption using the latest molecular biology techniques. Such plants are modified in labs to enhance certain desired qualities/traits such as increased resistance to herbicides or increasing the nutritional value of the crop . For example- Plant geneticists can bring about all these so called desired traits in a crop plant by isolating a certain gene. Say if the geneticists want to make the plants drought resistant, they will isolate a certain gene which can allow the plants to grow even in drought like conditions and then inject it into the plant. Hence we get a drought resistant plant. These genes can be injected from one plant into another and also from non plant organisms. The best example of this is the use of B.T genes in corn and other drops. B.t or Bacillus thuringiensis, is a naturally occurring bacterium that produces crystal proteins lethal to insect larvae.Once these genes have been transferred into the corn, it enables the corn to produce its own pesticides against such insects. Hence, now the poison is not outside the food but inside as well and these companies give the reason that genetically modified food is good as it is pest resistant. Actually, the pesticides are now INSIDE the plant so why should we need pesticides in the first place? They say that pesticides are bad for human health and then why do they go ahead and produce it inside the plant itself?

Coming back to the campaign, we as volunteers had to get as many people as possible to sign the petition against the introduction of GM foods in India. GM foods had been introduced in USA in the 90's and perhaps even before that if we listen to what Jeffery Smith (Author of the book Seeds of Decepetion) said.

The introduction and production of GM foods have been severely opposed in many parts of the world especially in parts of Europe. USA is the one country which produces maximum GM food.
Now the question which first came to my mind is that why do we need Genetically Modified Food? Why? Is there such acute food shortage in India and the answer is no. India is the already the second largest producer of rice and wheat in the world after China. The only impediment in our path is the low mechanisation of agriculture. If we can improve upon that, things will change drastically.
The main arguments in favour of GM foods are that it increases productivity and a world with increasing population will soon have much more demands on food which is where GM foods will save us all. Quite wrong. A very nice cover although and what is the cost of this gift? Our lives.

I may be no scientist, but what is the guarantee that these genes which are lethal to insect larvae will not affect us at all? Maybe not in the short term but who knows about the long term? Why take such a chance when there is no real need to?

Another aspect which is quite scary is that if they are introduced in India, there will be no separate labelling for GM foods. Hence people will not even know what they are eating. And why will labelling not being done? Because labelling costs are very high and not every country can afford that. One more fact is that B.T cotton which was grown in India was initially met with approval as the productivity was very high. But then it slowly began to drop and by the end of it, the land itself became unfit for any type of cultivation ever again. Now why did that happen? Imagine the condition of the farmers if they were forced to grow such plants? Even the seeds of GM crop plants are infertile which would mean that the farmers would have to buy the seeds again and again from these companies. What will that lead to? Monopolisation in a decade or so and money coming in from all directions for such companies.
The total side effects of GM food is not really known, even to the scientists. Even if GM foods have to be introduced some day isn't it just in our part to want concrete evidence that it isn't harmful for us? Even medicine is introduced in the market after extensive research and experimenting for 17 years. Then why is there such a hurry to introduce GM foods right now? Especially when it has been proven that there are severe health hazards.
I would suggest all of you to watch this video-
I would want all of you to share all the information or knowledge you have on this issue.


Nancy said...

I totally agree with what you said. I do not want to eat this food, either. I buy mostly organic, however, it is more expensive, and harder to find. In different parts of the country you can find more organic - especially Oregon, which has a very big organic movement. My younger daughter, just graduating from college wanted to get her certification in organic gardening instead of a graduation party. A gift we gladly gave, and she begins in October.

Good Post.

Deboshree said...

Thank you Nancy...glad to know I'm not alone here.


SearchingSoul said...

Hi Deboshree,

I agree about your apprehension on GM food, but much as we want to avoid them, we will never know which food used some ingredients derived from GM plants like corn oil, cereal, pastries served even in 5-star hotels...etc.

I watched a program in National Geographics and I learned that one of the intentions for genetically modifying these crops is they want to restore the old characteristics and traits of plants that were transformed through time by science. They have to do it to supply the growing demand for food worldwide and to counter the climatic changes happening to mother earth.

I am no scientist, like you, but I am scared as well.