Stop genetically modified food in Tamil Nadu: Greenpeace

December 30th, 2008 - 9:39 pm ICT by IANS  

Chennai, Dec 30 (IANS) “If genetically modified (GM) food is not stopped from entering India, we will have no surety for the youth of our nation or even our health,” Greenpeace activist Jai Krishna said here Tuesday while releasing an international NGO’s report on GM foods.The report claims GM foods pose a threat to health and agriculture. Releasing the report at a press conference, Kamala Selvaraj, Fertility expert from GG Hospital here, talked about a recent Austrian government study that showed GM corn caused infertility.

“The study clearly shows that the mice fed with GM corn in just over 20 months were found to have a smaller litter in the long term, and the pups were smaller and weaker. It is the same corn that is being field tested in TN Agricultural University now. It might take a few years or even a generation to see the impact of GM, and by then it will be too late because the effects are irreversible,” she warned.

Jayam Kannan, another fertility expert, said that infertility among young men and women is rising to alarming proportions in India. “Reproductive toxicity is the most important reason for this. We are worried with the studies that are surfacing on the GM issue that seem to cause immune disorders, liver and kidney toxicity, growth disorders and increasing antibiotic resistance and now infertility itself.

“The impact of these would be higher on children and invalids. If it could happen to mice, what hope do we have to survive a GM explosion in our diet?”

Sujatha Byravan, molecular biologist and former president of the Council for Responsible Genetics, said: “Genetic Engineering as a technology cannot be taken as safe without adequate safety tests.”

She alleged that the interests of agribiotech companies severely hamper scientifically rigorous and transparent studies on GM crops. “There are very few studies conducted on the impacts of GM that are not controlled by the agribusiness and the few scientists who reported adverse effects of GM have been silenced and their work discredited. India is right now following the same pattern of mistakes committed by the US in the regulation of GM food.

“None of the crops that are being researched in Tamil Nadu, including the ones by the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore have been tested independently,” she added, saying safety nets in the country were “negligent”.

Talking about the policy level negligence on this issue, Greenpeace’s Jai Krishna felt there was still some hope. “Some of the policy makers have been aware of this danger. Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss earlier this month said that he would oppose any move to introduce genetically modified food or seeds in the country without holistic studies on its impact on agriculture and health.

“However, with Tamil Nadu Agricultural University taking a lead in introducing GM crops without safety testing and in allying with companies which have no regard to public health, it has become imperative that the state Government takes an active role in understanding the seriousness and stops GM crops immediately.”

Greenpeace is a part of the Safe Food Alliance, a network of organisations and individuals who want to stop GM food from being approved as safe. The alliance requested the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi to stop all GM field trials in the state till further scientific evidence proves they are safe.

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