You are eating GM food but you don’t know it
Genetically modified foods may have a noble intention but since when have the means justified the ends? GM foods change the DNA of plants so that they become resistant to pests and thereby increase food production. They also reduce the usage of pesticides… all this to feed the starving millions. That was said tongue in cheek…because we know very well that big corporations are benefiting from the cultivation and sale of GM foods.
It’s terrible that we are tampering with the DNA of organisms, mutating them in labs into something “superior.” That is the stuff of science fiction and horror movies and should remain so! Well, at least until we find out the exact consequences of speeding up nature. There is hardly any data published on the “mid- or long-term toxicological studies with mammals.” If some countries have gone ahead with GM food it looks to me like they are more concerned with the financial health of companies rather than the physical health of people.
GM foods also pose a threat to the environment as an increase in “insect-free” plants could affect the bird population. In fact the possible devastating effects of GM food on our environment and on human beings are far too many for me to elaborate on here…but the information is available extensively on the internet. You can start from here or here.
What is disturbing is that the Indian government has chosen to ignore the risks. An amendment in September 2007 did away with import restrictions on GM foods…and is it surprising then that a few days ago there was news that food items containing genetically modified content were found in imported products in India? This was “discovered” after tests (conducted by Greenpeace) on randomly selected products from Delhi supermarkets revealed that PepsiCo’s Doritos Corn Chips contained “genetically modified Mon 863 and NK 603 variety corn ingredients”. But looks like Greenpeace doesn’t realise that it’s all quite legal. They believe that “…the presence of these products in the supermarket shelves proves that the regulatory system (in India) is in shambles. India seems to have become a dumping ground for genetically modified products that have been rejected due to their risk to health elsewhere…” Well, that may be true…but the bigger truth seems to be that GM foods do not require regulation in India.
There was news some months ago that the Indian government has “exempted” GM food from regulatory approval:
Order regulation will now be restricted only to GM products which can be grown, replicated (eg. Seeds). The notification has tremendous implication for the food processing industry which uses ingredients and additives made of genetically modified corn, maize and soya. Until now, producers and importers had to go through the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), the apex body for clearing all GMOs.
India is expected to regulate GM food…via the new Food Safety and Standard Act (2005-06)…but guess what, this Act may have been passed but it hasn’t yet been ‘Notified.’ What this means is that this new Act is yet to become operational! Well, consumer organisations are already up in arms about the GM food regulation being in limbo but is anybody listening?
In any case, even with the new law in force, GM foods are going to be freely available. All that the new Act will do is enforce labeling. But how many Indians will read the labels?? How many have heard of GM food? How many can make an independent assessment as to whether GM foods are safe?
I think it’s shocking that while there is a world wide controversy surrounding GM food, India has gone full steam ahead with it. Most countries in Europe don’t allow it.
Big monopoly corporations in countries like the US and Canada, who control the food industry and are looking for new markets, are the ones that are pushing for the introduction of GM foods. In the US, 80 per cent of all corn, 90 per cent of soybean and more than 50 per cent of canola is from GM. There is no mechanism to find out approved and unapproved varieties.
And these corporations (who control the food industry in the U.S. and Canada) are looking for new markets. Now that Europe is shutting its doors on them they are turning to underdeveloped countries like India.
Sure, India could benefit if it cultivates GM food on a large-scale. We are not yet self-sufficient in food. In spite of being the world’s second-biggest wheat producer we bought 5.5 million tonnes of wheat in 2006 and 1.8 million tonnes last year. We import 40 percent of our edible oils and now a shortage of rice has compelled the government to regulate rice exports. However, an article by Devinder Sharma (former visiting fellow at Cambridge University) gives an interesting perspective…he says that cultivation of GM food will not remove hunger. But whether it does or not, we cannot think short-term. We have to think of the long-term health of our people.
In the absence of our government looking out for us, we need to do it ourselves. The following products could possibly contain GM content because they might have used imported soy, maize, corn and canola derivatives. So until the labels are on and we are sure, let’s be cautious about buying these foods . Those prone to allergies should avoid them as many GM foods have been shown to cause allergies.
- Infant formula
- Crackers and chips
- Salad dressings
- Soya sauce or even tomato sauce
- Some edible oils
- Some candies
- Frozen yoghurt
What is scary is that now India is growing genetically modified vegetables. Brinjal is India’s “first expected GM food crop.” Field trials of GM brinjal started in August 2007 and for all you know the brinjals you are eating may have genetically modified content. There are also indications that the potatoes available in India are genetically modified…but no one knows for sure. And are you ever going to find out? I can’t imagine our government making labelling of potatoes mandatory…they have decided to feed us GM food and we have little choice in the matter.
(Photo credits: Cornfield from Natural News and corn chips from ndtv)
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