Friday, 29 March 2013

Why say 'no' to GM

There are labelling requirement in several countries which gives the consumers information on whether the food item is made using genetically modified plant genes or not.  Some countries require that the commodities which have transgenic protein traces can be labelled as they had been genetically modified in origin.Some countries require that all genetically modified products (if GM origin elements had been used in production process) have to be labelled. This is to protect the consumer in making an informed choice. Genetically modified genes cause kidney damage and liver damage and cause high mortality rates. Genetically modified plants are toxic as they were designed to keep away insects. 
What is GM? Genes of plant species are genetically modified by crossing with another species to make a stronger species which is resistant to insects(pests) and plant diseases. This increases the toxicity of the genetically modified plant several times. The genetically modified plant becomes more and more robust, and gives bigger harvests. But the consumers suffer because of the toxicity of the products.Why were such foods made? Super bugs invaded big farms and to control them became impossible. To combat the super bugs(like locusts) monster seeds were invented by genetic engineering. And thus came GM(genetically modified)crops. Instead of this we could have introduced insect eating birds and that would have been the ecologically correct  alternative. 
In India, only one GM crop has been is allowed to grow and that is 'bt cotton'. It was allowed as cotton is not used in food (as thought previously). But the cotton seed is used to extract oil which is combined in making other edible oils. Cotton seed cakes(by-products when cotton seed oil is extracted) are fed to dairy animals(cows) which give milk which has the toxic content of the GM crops. Now legislation has to be made for this. Whether we label such products as GM or not, they have GM elements in them. Even if the consumer is given a choice, is the consumer knowledgeable enough to understand what is GM ? No, he is not.It is up to the government to ban it, as it can cause damage to the health of the consumer. Now we are leaving up to the farmer to make the choice of using the genetically modified seeds or not. Farmers should debate on whether to use GM technology. Even the farming community may not be knowledgeable enough to understand the damage that GM can cause. Even consumers do not know "what is GM"; so even if we label it as GM, consumer would take it.Informed choice of labelling will not help. There is no awareness of this. Imported pickles also have corn, canola, soybean which are grown from GM seeds, and these are used in exotic urban restaurants in India.Unknowingly people are consuming GM products, without realising the potential hazards.
As it is, soy oil (which is imported) has GM elements in it. In 2006, we tried to amend the Prevention of Food Adulteration(PFA) Act of 1955 to label GM mandatory. Food Safety and Standards Act of 2006 was dealt under Food Safety and Standards Authority of India(FSSAI) Bu still labelling of GM foods has not been done. After this came Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India Bill which had said that all living modified organisms and foods derived from them had to be dealt by them. But even then GM remained under FSSAI. Food Safety Standards Regulation Act of 2011 covered even irradiated food which had to be labelled but GM was not covered(therefore labelling was not mandatory) When issue of 'bt brinjal' was discussed, it has been banned in India, but what about issue of  'bt cotton'? Whether banned or not GM has entered our food chain by' bt cotton'. Milk products like yogurt(curd)  butter, cheese, chocolate, cakes and milk sweets have GM elements in them. We have now consumed them. It is irreversible now, as we cannot reverse food chain. We must go for ecological farming for survival; and indigenous or native species can be grown and our plant gene pool should be protected. Only then India will have a future.Our indigenous (native) species of rice had special properties because of which incidence of diabetics was rare in the old times. With coming of new rice plant species, our native species have disappeared all together.We must learn more about the genetically modified genes and modify our laws to ban them; we must promote our native species of plants and make ecologically correct alternatives to control pests. Technical experts have called for ten year moratorium on field trails of genetically modified crops.The research should go on; but using the genetically modified plants should not be allowed for now.

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