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You are eating GM food but you don’t know it

May 6, 2008
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GM CornGenetically 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 hasCorn chips 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.

However GM food is freely available in the United States and the US government doesn’t find the need to label foods containing GM content either. The situation in the US is this:

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
  • Cereals
  • Mayonnaise
  • Crackers and chips
  • Salad dressings
  • Soya sauce or even tomato sauce
  • Some edible oils
  • Some candies
  • Ice-cream
  • 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)

Related Reading: Where have all our sparrows gone?
Some of the best hundred year old diets
Tigers in India down to a thousand
Organic food may not be “ethical” but it will save the world
Pesticide poisoning a huge problem in India
Even the ‘healthy Instant Noodles are not healthy
Is India doing something about Transfats?
Chemicals in our everyday foods and medicines

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32 Comments leave one →
  1. May 6, 2008 9:21 am

    Nita, in the US, if a food is labeled as Organic, it is GMO-free. So far. But that standard may not last too long and will probably be diluted as big corporations have moved in, and just as night follows the day, they will try their best to change the standards in an attempt to maximize their profits.

    Also, the Doomsday Vault in Norway (http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=mg18925343.700) will not contain any GM seeds, which is quite telling.

    Other than food, Bt cotton is genetically modified, and while I haven’t done much research, I wouldn’t be surprised if switching to Bt cotton is one of the factors that has led to suicide by Indian farmers. The company that markets those seeds – Monsanto – is one of the worst corporations out there.

  2. May 6, 2008 9:29 am

    Also, if you get a chance, there’s an excellent movie called King Corn.

  3. May 6, 2008 11:50 am

    Nita, there have been efforts here in Canada to enforce labelling of foodstuffs containing GMO ingredients – all to little avail. So, as a person trying to feed my family, unless i go the organic route, i cannot be sure of exactly what is in food I buy. Corn, Canola and soy are overwhelmingly gentically modified and contained in almost all prepared foodstuffs.
    To read about a nightmare scenario of genetic modification gone wrong, read the novel, “Oryx and Crake”, by Margaret Attwood, a pre-eminent Canadian novelist. G

  4. May 6, 2008 1:58 pm

    someday someone in the US or well some big MNC will decide that adding chemicals into packet foods is better…i think nature doesn’t need to kill us…we keep killing ourselves…

  5. May 6, 2008 2:37 pm

    Hmm. Thats why I have lose motion from somedays. Damn, I should know this before…

  6. May 6, 2008 3:45 pm

    Nita,
    I guess if the food is labeled as Organic, it is GMO-free here in India too. The question is how many people can afford organic food. It is easily available in Delhi but the prices are too high.
    Vishesh, nature doesn’t kill us ever we are our own enemies.

  7. May 6, 2008 6:23 pm

    a very informative post.
    maybe clear labelling – as they do for vegetarian products — will help.
    i haven’t made up my mind on GM food … but would like the option to know what is GM and what is not…. !

  8. May 6, 2008 7:12 pm

    maybe clear labelling – as they do for vegetarian products — will help.

    Harini, your right as an individual to know that information about what you eat has been deemed irrelevant by the corporations, because their right to make a profit at any costs takes precedence.🙂

  9. May 6, 2008 8:29 pm

    @prerna:er…i meant that nature doesn’t need evolve and create some special specie to remove us…like super resistive and flexible mosquitoes…

  10. May 6, 2008 8:58 pm

    Amit, true organic food doesn’t have GMO’s and maybe organic food is available in the US in plenty and is reasonably priced. Here it is not. About BT cotton, not all farmers who cultivated it had a problem. In Gujarat they were fairly successful. There are a lot of causes for the failure of BT cotton in India and some I have mentioned here. Shall keep that movie in mind too.🙂

    G, I have heard of M Atwood but didn’t know about that novel. Sounds interesting and will try to get hold of it.

    Vishesh, I think human beings will soon mutate into another species with all the unnatural things they are doing!🙂

    Kartik, don’t know about GM food causing stomach upsets…but wouldn’t be surprised at all. Some people react to it badly.

    Prerna, as you said no one can afford organic food on a regular basis. Even I can’t. And even if I decide to go broke buying organic food it isn’t even available except in speciality stores or big supermarkets.

    Harini, thanks. To make up your mind on whether GM food is okay or not, just think of how it’s being done…not the result. That is frightening enough.

    Amit, nicely put!🙂

  11. May 6, 2008 9:48 pm

    Amit, true organic food doesn’t have GMO’s and maybe organic food is available in the US in plenty and is reasonably priced. Here it is not.

    Nita, it’s very pricey here in the US too and not everyone can afford it. I didn’t mean to imply that everyone start eating organic food as a way to avoid GMOs.

  12. May 6, 2008 10:15 pm

    Superbly researched article,Nita!

    When governments across the world decide to put the interests of corporations before the interests of the people,the consequences could be disastrous.

    About GM rice,here is a link of the battle between GM and non-GM rice in states right across the country:

    rediff.com

    And here is a link about how farmers,exporters and environmental activists(Greenpeace) have come together to prevent GM rice from being cultivated in India:

    The Hindu

    There would be nothing wrong with GM crops if the entire genetic modifications carried out as well as the tests are put in the public domain and GM food products are clearly labelled.There should be a clear warning like GM FOOD MAY BE INJURIOUS TO HEALTH! if an outright ban is not possible.

    Having said that,I do agree that genetic engineering may have its benefits.For instance,with global warming turning vast tracts of land across the world into deserts(like in Africa),or rising sea levels submerging coastal land(like in Bangladesh and the Maldives),we cannot rule out the fact that genetic engineering may turn out to be beneficial to humankind.

    However,it is not that only modern science can do those things.Farmers in Kerala have a very interesting traditional method of cultivating organic rice:

    hinduonnet

    It is very sad that organically grown food is very expensive and hard to come by 😦

  13. May 7, 2008 7:05 am

    Nita, this is a lot of research! I admire your efforts.

    In the US GM foods abound. And like you said about Indians,no one seems to notice! I buy organic food when I can, but the price is so high!
    It scares me to think about what is added or changed in our foods.

    And though I’m a vegetarian, my children eat meat. Think about the hormones and antibiotics they feed cattle! It’s very disheartening.

    I think I’ll read the novel G. suggested. I read The Handmaid’s Tale by Atwood, and loved it.

  14. nehru mantri permalink
    May 7, 2008 8:14 am

    With all respect Nita, while I can understand your interest this is simply along the lines of so many published all the time that brings up this bugaboo of the “unknown”. The facts on the other side have been neglected.
    Genetic modification has been in vogue ever since DNA formed and spread out. Even as we speak our bodies fight the errors of genetic modification going on inside of us and of all living beings exposed to sun and other factors. Women, the earth’s first seed collectors were modifying genes when they sifted and sowed specially chosen seed which replaced all others and sent a lot of genes into extinction. Plant breeders in the last 50 years took up the same task adopting a more scientific and methodical approach.What they did was to assure that the genes for the best desirable traits (less fiber in vegetable skin, seed weight of cereals and other grains, more leaf area of leafy vegetables, fast growth of plants etc) were reinforced in successive generations and also increase what is called gene copy. For eg if a gene aids in forming 50 gms of rice grain per head then 2 copies of the SAME gene in a plant that can utilize resources well would give 100 gms per flowering head. People have been eating the humongous cauliflower, Broccoli, strawberry and such modified veg for the last 40 years. The only difference is that the method is more precise in that we go directly to the precise gene instead of wasting time on trial and error outcomes of a thousand possible genes by natural pollination more like comparing Iraq war to Napoleonic wars. If you have been consuming pop corn since childhood you have eaten GM food all your life. There was no such thing as corn. It was a weed to begin with and you will not eat original corn if you saw that today. Besides there is nothing magical about Gen modification. What they do is to make an existing gene function properly or bring in a deficient gene from another source (since a new gene can never be manufactured_ we have to play around with only the genes that abound naturally). In the course of free play some organisms lose a few genes and pick up others that are agriculturally undesirable. The ones lost can be brought in from another related species and undesirable ones can be suppressed. Lots of genes of Bacteria, plants and animals are similar because that is how we evolved through natural addition, deletion, divergence and resurrection of similar genes at a later time period. Besides newly imported genes are constructed carefully to produce exactly the same product (protein) that the gene would produce were it present in its original host, ie. the gene and the product are tested in another organism like a bacteria before introduction into a plant and later again recovered from the plant following introduction and tested. Example of a benefit:

    ” The biotechnology firm Syngenta’s laboratories in Britain has developed a strain of “golden rice” that produces around 20 times as much beta-carotine — which the body converts to Vitamin A — as previous varieties. The World Health Organization estimates that up to 500,000 children go blind each year because of vitamin A deficiency” (source: Mywire). My view is that people well fed need only to eat less in future to avoid excessively rich food and there will be plent of “GOOD FOOD” to go around. Already there are cows that need to be milked every four hours (6 times a day) due to the amount of milk they produce. It IS a brave new world.

  15. May 7, 2008 8:49 am

    Raj, thank you for the links and the comment. I agree with you whole-heartedly here and you are exactly spot on when you say:

    There would be nothing wrong with GM crops if the entire genetic modifications carried out as well as the tests are put in the public domain and GM food products are clearly labelled

    Christine, the problems is that consumers today are at the recieving end. On one had there are more choices than they ever were (and plenty of food for those who can afford it) but the choices are not healthy choices. Take a simple thing like whole-wheat bread and whole-wheat pasta. It is not easily available here in India. Sure, there is a lot of bread which calls itself “brown” bread but it is not whole-wheat and many don’t even know. If I want to buy genuine whole-wheat bread I have to travel many kilometers. In India the makers of bread don’t even have to say what percentage of wholemeal they use…they can use just 10 percent and call their bread wholewheat bread.

    Nehru Mantri, I don’t want to argue with you here as I am sure that genetic modication from the pure scientific point of view is a great thing and as Raj said could one day save humanity. But I want to be able to choose what I buy. Simple as that. I want to buy pure safe foods. Call it a quirk but that’s how I am. If there is proof that GM food is safe I will buy it. Until then I shall give it a miss. I am not opposing GM food for the sake of it you know. I am opposing it because yes, I have a fear of the unknown. Call it another quirk.🙂

  16. nehru mantri permalink
    May 7, 2008 11:52 pm

    Nita,
    No, far from it. Labels don’t help. Further, the assumption that “true organic food are not GM’s” is false. You can go out and buy any seed now and the seller can tell you precisely where the seed came from …..which means they have been carefully bred (read Genetically Modified) somewhere, somehow over the last 60 years. By organic they mean no fertilizer or pesticides were used on the very same normally grown crops from similar or local ancestral procured seed (which THEY ASSUME is not gen modified). They use other heavy machinery consuming 3 or 4 times the gas to get rid of pests and weeds (sledgehammer for a simple nail). My wife tried that in the backyard. For 2 years in a row we got bare sticks of capsicum (plants) with a couple of thick fat worms on each and finally some twisted streaky fruits with holes. Same with a peach tree. 90% of the fruit were riddled with beetle holes and we finally cut the small sickly looking tree.

    Listen to what this scientist says:
    “Considering the history of Golden Rice (the technology is often considered risky because it is so fast!) it took 10 years (from 1980 to 1990) to develop the necessary technology of placing genes into rice. It took further 9 years (from 1990 to 1999) to introduce the genes required to establish the biochemical pathway leading to pro-vitamin A in the seed. And it took further 5 years (from 1999 to 2004) to develop a Golden Rice “product” and carry it across a series of GMO-specific hurdles such as IPRs. And it will take, probably, at least 5 more years to advance the first Golden Rice product through the deregulatory procedure: Therefore, it took 30 years if we include technology development, and it took still 20 years for the single specific case. Considering that Golden Rice could substantially reduce blindness (500 000 per year) and death (2-3 million per year) 20 years are a very long time period, and I do not think that anyone should complain that this was “too fast”! If it were possible to shorten the time from science to the deregulated product, we could prevent blindness for hundreds of thousands of children”! “All our modern crop varieties – from which we derive our food – have a long history and are composed of numerous previous varieties and there is not the slightest doubt possible, that all our traditionally bred crop varieties are most extensively “genetically modified” by hundreds if not thousands of “unpredictable genome alterations”. This is, of course, also true for those varieties used by organic farmers. We just do not call them “GMO’s”! “Genetically engineered” plants are not unusual plants, filled with mysterious dangers for the consumer and the environment”. “Europe can be proud of its cultural heritage of the “Age of Enlightenment” and should rather listen to the advice of science than that of “witch hunters”. It is Europe’s responsibility to help developing countries to harness the potential of green biotechnology, however the European attitude badly affects the attitude in developing countries.Europe can afford such an extreme negative attitude because it can buy whatever it wants on the world market. However, for developing countries such an attitude leads to unnecessary death and misery of many millions”.

    Ingo Potrykus, PhD, Professor emeritus Plant Sciences,
    Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Zuerich, Switzerland (source:www.agbioworld.org)

    A final note: It also took a long time to find a regulatory body….reason, none of the scientists called to form the board repeatedly could find cause to refute simple basic scientific facts. And of course the companies would put all their hard work in the public domain. Only thing is they may want the entire country in return.

    I am ofcourse aware of what “organic” food means and so are the commentators here and as you said, it may not be free of GMO’s. However I think in India we don’t have GM food on the scale that you say and I pray it will never be that way.
    I can only hope that posts like mine raise awareness and help to stop the GMisation of India. My post may not be perfect but it will get people thinking and that is all that I want.
    If you feel there is any fallacy in my arguments you are welcome to add yours. In my view I have given all that I had. At the moment. – Nita.

  17. May 8, 2008 1:56 am

    I guess we’re not missing rambodoc after all.😀

    The fact is that genetic modification as done in the past through selecting certain plants and seeds does not have the same scale or potential (good or bad) as the modern genetic modification techniques, which is combining DNA from bacteria with plant DNA. So to conflate the two and say that genetic modification has been done for centuries, and this new technique is nothing new is disingenuous at best. Besides, when not enough is known about how a new and potentially hazardous technology is going to irreversibly impact us and other species, it’s probably wiser to show a little precaution – prevention is better than cure. Better safe than sorry, more so when corporations have a proven track record of not taking accountability for their mistakes because of bottom-line considerations, and governments are too weak to do anything.

    Any technology that puts the seeds and our food into the hands of a few corporations who have immense power to influence governments to write regulations in their favor is a cause for concern. We are talking about basic rights to food and seeds here.

    Besides, it’s my right to know whether the food I’m buying and consuming is genetically modified or not, and when corporations go to great lengths to hide that from consumers, that’s a huge red flag. An example is the labeling controversy regarding rBGH brought to us by Monsanto, the same corporation involved with selling GM seeds. That shows an elitist thinking – “we know what’s best for you, you don’t need to know.” It’s very easy for corporations to discredit scientists who do find something problematic with GMOs, for example Arpad Pusztai.

    Any (twisted) brain that wanted to implement Terminator Technology that makes seeds sterile and forces farmers to buy seeds every year from a single corporation is not concerned with “feeding the poor” – that’s nothing but tripe, PR propaganda and Hobson’s choice for the farmers. The way food – which the world produces enough of – is distributed has some systemic inequalities, and if those are corrected, the hunger problem can be solved. It’s inefficient to grow grains and then feed them to animals for meat, when those grains can directly feed humans. For example, 5 pounds of grain go to produce 1 pound of beef. I wouldn’t even go into the subsidies that make crops produced by agribusinesses cheaper for the consumers when compared to organic produce – that would be a separate post in itself.🙂

    As for golden rice, I’d encourage folks to do some research of their own and read different sources, not just the biotech PR. It’s a complex issue which the biotech companies do their best to reduce to a simplistic solution. Here’s what Gordon Conway (then president of Rockefeller Foundation) said: “the public relations uses of golden rice have gone too far. The industry’s advertisements and the media in general seem to forget that it is a research product that needs considerable further development before it will be available to farmers and consumers.”

    Dr, Richard Horton (editor of Lancet) had this to say: “Seeking a technological food fix for world hunger may be…the most commercially malevolent wild goose chase of the new century.”
    (Both quotes from Uncertain Peril by Claire Hope Cummings.)

    Analysis has shown that children would have to eat 12 pounds of golden rice and adults 20 pounds daily to get the benefits of beta-carotene.

    I’d be more trusting of GMOs if there had been more transparency and inclusiveness – an attempt to work with the communities.

    Some links:
    Jeffrey Smith’s testimony to the EPA.
    GM Watch.
    Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.
    The Future of Food.

    There’s also a new French documentary out called “The World According to Monsanto” – highly recommended.

  18. May 8, 2008 2:17 am

    And here’s a link that explains the unscientific hocus-pocus called “substantial equivalence” used to test the safety of GM foods, that too in-house testing, not independent.

    Thanks for those very useful links. Eye-openers. – Nita.

  19. nehru mantri permalink
    May 8, 2008 7:59 am

    Nita

    I am not implying any fallacy on your part . Merely that you are repeating what a lot of other activists have been saying for quite some time and you certainly are a lot rational in your approach and hence I sort of let loose here. Thanks for putting up with that. I read the incidents on Bt Cotton in India and was not surprised to find the real intentions behind the wrath on Monsanto. The farmers dont like the concept of paying anew each season and desire to breed their own GM cotton and make all the profits. Once they saw the savings and yield from illegally smuggled seeds they quit the posturing and got down to the business of farming and as a result India surpassed the US production of GM otton.12-15 rounds of spraying a pesticide was reduced to probably 2. My other gripe is this. Can those activists be held responsible who without substantial evidence obstruct and impoverish poor farmers. It is in my opinion none less than crimes against humanity. Such vigilantes/Governments must be forced to pay compensation for all the seasons missed just as big company misdemeanors. But Nita the best thing is for anyone interested in this issue is visit a nearby crop research station or institute/University and know how this work is done first hand for yourself. I am sure you will be delightfully surprised at their response. I’d be more concerned about cell phones, oral cancer from chewing betelnut and paan and hair dyes etc.

    Amit,
    That link has more suppositions and finger pointing and hearsay. Would you believe a website whose author wants to hide but has no qualms about pointing out all those he does not agree with. Nevertheless if you read carefully the nature article quoted therein it says “the concept of substantial evidence has never been properly defined”. As I stated earlier the GM science then was so new that the companies had to come up a set of safety criteria which others in the Govt and other public agencies needed to build upon eventually. But each test and each regulation adds to the cost of the product and more than the farmer it is the ultimate consumer who will pay the price. So any criticism has to be constructive and of use. Again this is small potatoes compared to the health industry. It should be remembered that the fear of genetically transformed bacteria and viruses to combat diseases presented a far more dangerous proposition and as a result the safety standards adopted for plants later was infinitely better.

    The link below has peer reviewed factual research articles (not reviews) that cover various aspects (if you like to references to scientific articles).
    agbioworld.org/biotech-info/articles/biotech-art/peer-reviewed-pubs

  20. nehru mantri permalink
    May 8, 2008 9:48 am

    Amit,

    No one has disproved the fact that plants did not rise from bacteria and that for a given identical gene there is virtually 0 or little difference between the two. The statement “which is combining DNA from bacteria with plant DNA” is misleading because it implies random thoughtless combination. On the contrary the protein product of the gene is well researched and understood and in many cases rectifies a preexisting pathway or identical gene function. The entire first sentence is nothing but speculation without any proof. Frankly the scientific world would love to know exactly what is likely to happen from the point of view of the opposition. But there is hardly any stuff from therein the form of research experiments is there? Only suppositions and the blame game on big corpor’s. We vote in the Govt. so why worry about corporate influence? I suppose either the influence of communist principles or age old Indian philosophy within us expects that corporations hand over the goose with the golden egg. The suicidal seeds are nothing but an ingenious marketing strategy. Did we ever ask Amul or H lever for how they processed our food and utilities or ask them to hand over the soap formula? Yes Corp say they will feed the poor but they did not say they will do it free year after year! Why would anyone be part of ones own undoing by revealing a trade secret. There is enough information if the public wants to duplicate the multi million dollar research. Besides you know that a Honda part is never made to fit the Ford. So how’s this different ? Of course there are many other ways of alleviating suffering besides increased yield. But the simple fact it nobody has done it. Pontification is not going to feed hunger. I could rephrase Horton to say ‘Not Seeking a technological food fix when readily available in face of poverty amounts to Crimes against humanity”. He may be right in a way. So let the govt do it or else do more like inducing birth control through genetic alteration of some crops.

  21. nehru mantri permalink
    May 8, 2008 6:05 pm

    Nita

    Wonder why 2 of my last posts did not go through. Thanks

  22. May 11, 2008 7:40 am

    Mr. Mantri, sorry for the trouble but for some unexplained reason your comments had gone into spam.
    And I do worry about “cell phones, oral cancer from chewing betelnut and paan and hair dyes etc.”🙂

  23. May 11, 2008 11:39 am

    Nehru Mantri,

    The suicidal seeds are nothing but an ingenious marketing strategy. Did we ever ask Amul or H lever for how they processed our food and utilities or ask them to hand over the soap formula? Yes Corp say they will feed the poor but they did not say they will do it free year after year! Why would anyone be part of ones own undoing by revealing a trade secret.

    I’m amazed at the way you think – basically, you don’t see anything wrong with the farmers losing their seed sovereignty and be dependent on a monopolistic corporation for their seeds!! No wonder that corporations are so powerful with apologists around.

    I’ve done my research, and I’m not going to be convinced by your arguments, though you do phrase them rather cleverly. Let’s simply agree to disagree, without you trying to pin some labels on me, like “communist” etc. because I can throw around some labels too.🙂
    Any criticism of wrongdoings by corporations does not make one a communist – that’s faulty logic.

    You seem to come from the school of thought that ignores blatant abuses by corporations in the name of “progress,” whereas I don’t. My distrust of some corporations like Monsanto is based on concrete examples of systemic and regular abuses by them, and escaping responsibility. I can give you many examples where some corporations have got away with murder. Literally. This has nothing to do with Indian thinking or communism or any ideology, but is based on facts.

    The burden of proof is on the corporations to show that their product is safe – that to me is the rational approach, whereas you seem to have it backwards that unless consumers and activists can prove that a product is harmful, the corporation is free to use us as guinea pigs. Nice try, but no dice. Ignoring the law of unintended consequences is not a wise approach. YMMV.🙂

    Oh, and peer-reviewed scientific studies – those are not holy grails as you make them out to be. I hope that people would stop using that phrase in discussions as if peer-reviewed studies are infallible and above any criticism, and that science happens in a vacuum. It wasn’t that long ago that doctors endorsed cigarettes as healthy. As Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

    Cheers.

  24. May 11, 2008 11:59 am

    Here’s more dope on your wonderful and trustworthy corporation Monsanto – I guess Vanity Fair has gone commie.😉

    Happy reading.

    http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2008/05/monsanto200805

  25. May 11, 2008 12:21 pm

    Amit, it’s funny isn’t it when one expects corporations to act responsibly one is branded a communist. This only happens in India🙂 I too have been labeled (and often embraced!) as a communist when actually I abhor the communist idealogy. I think one needs to look beyond labels like you say, and stop thinking in terms of black and white.

  26. May 11, 2008 11:05 pm

    Nita, agreed. This labeling happens when people are married to ideologies and look at the world through that single ideological lens and have space for only two positions – with us or against us.

  27. nehru mantri permalink
    May 12, 2008 11:55 am

    Thanks for your efforts Nita. I hope you wont regret it ! Corporations do try to accommodate within reason though they can be accountable only to a certain body like a regulatory agency and not to all and sundry whims of a citizen with a grudge.

    Amit
    The farmers don’t lose a thing. They get what they pay for for one season. After that they can go back to the seeds they were used to if they do not want the GM seed. After all, the source of the original seed remains. A private entrepreneur takes a few seeds, GM’s it and creates his own stock and while this stock is out of bounds the original non-GM stock is still freely available. Only patented GM seed is non reusable. Even if you want to see the same movie you still have to buy a new ticket each time you want to see it. These are not clever phrases. Its is the reality of life. Products are priced per demand and time value. How else will the corps recover their investment within the allowed patent time limits? As for labels, I am sorry but if you read my post I said “us” including myself whereas your label of an apologist directly is aimed at me. I have been in a communist country for > than 4 years and know firsthand what a real communist can be. And they are not the pretend commies from Bengal or the ones from Kerala who fancy this claim staying and reaping the benefits in a free country and yet direct their scorn claiming to be communists. You can relax since like these guys you can wish but never ever become that communist and contrary to popular movie myths the true commies are very purpose driven, pragmatic and results oriented much like corporations and like to run a very efficient ruthless and accountable government at least at the level of the common citizenry. It is pretty difficult to trace the “hush”. A Corp. on the other hand gives incentives to free thought and active participation. In fact Corp. find it easy to deal with Comm countries because they need convince only a handful and are assured an immediate market in every nook and corner. Further the socialistic policies of the Indian government until recently and in part even now are no big secret anyway.

    However that is neither here nor there. The real issue is science. Marketing and science are two different issues and all these merry go rounds do not attest to a single scientific proof that a GM plant is radically different from a normal plant with attenuated function of the same gene or that they are toxic. The vanity fair article is excellent and balanced and shows you the situation as is. To me if any it just shows how popular the GM techniques are and how everybody wants to make money out of it . The small farmers want to make a quick buck thinking they can evade detection and the anti BSH guys want to make hay out of the carton labeling. It is not just Monsanto. In the final analysis it just goes to show how messy marketing a GM product can be. While the blame on the env pollution with chemicals is due to poor all round regulation prevalent at that time (less study devoted to ecology etc) some of the problems like agent orange was unwarranted since Mons. had no say in how the Govt. went about using the product. Again you make sweeping statements about peer rev articles. One of the aims of the article is to invite the reader to repeat the experiment by providing all minute detail. While you are exaggerating it would not surprise me if nicotine did indeed prove beneficial for some muscle movement (that is in one expt) but you cannot imply from it that smoking is the way and that too beyond reason. Marketing smokes unlike GMO was not a scientifically approved venture like you imply. It was driven by populist ad propaganda. I have worked in villages in India with 80% leprosy and where 3 in 4 children under age 5 still run naked. If i can pull your leg one last time, I do find it really taxing on my single idealogical lens to decide which is black and which is white.

  28. nehru mantri permalink
    May 12, 2008 12:06 pm

    correction. Please read the last line in above post as

    which is black and which is white when confronted with such truth.

    Thanks for reading (No offense meant to anyone. sorry wish I knew to place smileys.)

  29. Kshitij permalink
    May 25, 2008 10:40 am

    Gm crops r passe, lets be futuristic. Why nt simply change the genetic structure of human beings so that we dnt even require any food or even any water to live. Imagine the benefits, no land required for agricuture, no worries about river pollution, no organic waste. We can simply give all natural resources to big industrial corporations who would create millon jobs n create wealth and GDP of india wd accelerate in 3 digit figures (The great economists of India, our PM, Montek Singh, Chidambaram wd love this point, after all thats all they can think of.)

    No worries about pollution, pesticides,chemicals.
    And the most important benefit , it would speed up the human civilization to extinction, after all thats what the big industrialists and our honest and fore sighted government would are taking us. Fast death is better than dying slowly.

  30. vish permalink
    May 25, 2008 12:56 pm

    “Why nt simply change the genetic structure of human beings so that we dnt even require any food or even any water to live”

    and what Mansanto do then? they need the starving masses to demand and they will supply to make profits!

  31. October 24, 2008 5:39 pm

    Hi Nita,

    Linked up to this article, if you have any issues please do let me know🙂

    you can read it here -> http://perfect-imperfect.blogspot.com/2008/10/how-easy-is-it-to-eat-healthy.html

    cheers

  32. Musunuri permalink
    June 8, 2009 9:31 am

    Actually, GM doesn’t = bad. Infact, everything you eat, even the so-called “organic” stuff has been genetically modified. This is because even breeding=GM. Ever since agriculture has developed, people have been GM-ing crops by breeding the strongest, biggest plants from each generation. Modern GM-ing is done differently of course, but the basic principle is slight genetic change (there is actually not much genetic difference between a GM and an “Organic” plant).

    The whole point is to make crops stroger, and more resistant to disease. Organic crops are actually more likely to cause diseases such as E.coli, because they are fertilized with animal waste.

    GM produces more food than organic, because it is more efficient. Because more food is available by GM, it is also cheaper, and cheap food is essential to a developing country. If the entire world were to switch to organic, over 2 billion would be left starving.

    Because more food is produced per acre by GM, less land needs to be used for farming. So, GM is less invasive on the environment.

    The U.S. govenment is actually very careful about GM crops. GM stuff is tested intensively by three agencies: the FDA, EPA, and USDA. Organic food isn’t tested nearly as much.

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