Friday, 15 January 2010

An open letter to Shri Jairam Ramesh

Dear Sir,

Please accept my congratulations on initiating a public dialogue on Bt Brinjal. What you have done proves our democracy is healthy.
However, I must bring to your notice some valid concerns regarding Bt Brinjal.
To sum up: Here is the situation. A whole lot of scientists are against Genetically Modified Food.
Many are in favour of it.
Those in favour say GM Foods are harmless.
But it’s not proven.
It would take years to find out the real effects of GM Food and then only they should be ‘unleashed’ on humans. If at all.
But why are the companies that make GM Food are in a hurry to get them approved?
Because with climate change they have an excuse of solving the food crisis. But that’s a tall claim and should be well tested.
Or it would mean compromising on our health, our country’s food security, and destroying small farmers.

After doing an extensive study, I list forth some key points that the GMO companies have put forth. And their point by point rebuttal from top scientists around the world.

What the companies say: There is no evidence that presently developed GE foods are harmful to health and environment.
Deceptive. The truth is that there is no scientific proof that the GE foods on the
market are harmless. There are studies, however, that are pointing out to the harmful effects. The Guardian reported that British scientist Dr Arpad Pusztai findings showed that rats fed on GM potatoes (both raw and cooked) after 10 days suffered a weakened immune system as well as severe impairment in the development of the internal organs such as heart, liver, kidney and even the brain.
Environment: The research to investigate long term environmental effects would take many years in each single case of genetic engineering. An expert appointed by the European Parliament to assess this issue concluded: "Our current knowledge does not provide us with the means to predict the ecological long-term effects of releasing organisms into the environment. So it is beyond the competence of the scientific system to answer such a question..."

What the companies say: GE-foods will save the world from global famine through greatly improved crops.
The report from International Assessment for Agricultural Science and Technology for Development, initiated by the World Bank and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, and conducted by 400 scientists over a period of three years, acknowledges that GM crops will not play a substantial role in addressing the key problems of climate change, biodiversity loss, hunger and poverty. “The future of farming lies in a biodiversity and labour-intensive agriculture that works with nature and the people, not against them.”
This report has been endorsed by the Government of India.

What the companies say: This is nothing new. Mankind has been modifying genes since thousands of years in breeding.
In mating, a chromosome from the mother is combined with a chromosome of the father. The sequence of DNA "code words" in each chromosome remains unchanged. And the chromosomes remain stable. The mating mechanism has been developed over billions of years and yields stable and reliable results.

In genetic engineering, a set of foreign genes is inserted haphazardly in the midst of the sequence of DNA "code words" (in this case in the DNA inherited from the mother. The insertion disrupts the ordinary command code sequence in the DNA. This disruption may disturb the functioning of the cell, and make the chromosome unstable in unpredictable and potentially hazardous ways.

Are long term tests really possible on GM Crops?
Agritech companies such as Monsanto, Pioneer and Syngenta don’t let their seeds be tested. For a decade their user agreements have explicitly forbidden the use of the seeds for any independent research. Under the threat of litigation, scientists cannot test a seed to explore the different conditions under which it thrives or fails. They cannot compare seeds from one company against those from another company. And perhaps most important, they cannot examine whether the genetically modified crops lead to unintended environmental side effects.
Research on genetically modified seeds is still published, of course. But only studies that the seed companies have approved ever see the light of a peer-reviewed journal. -
Scientific American, August 2009

Sir, we respect you and know that in the light of all the valid criticism against Bt Brinjal, you will impose a moratorium on it, till it proves to be safe.

Kind regards,