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Doctors caution against genetically modified food Express News Service
Ludhiana: At a time when Bt Brinjal may soon be introduced into the market, several renowned doctors of the city today initiated a consumer awareness campaign against genetically modified (GM) foods, citing health problems.

The doctors called for an immediate moratorium on all GM foods and vowed to intensify the campaign in the coming months so that the Government sets up a safety assessment protocol to look into the safety of such food items.

The campaign, "I am no lab rat", was launched in Chandigarh on January 30. It is a consumer awareness and mobilisation campaign called as part of a nation-wide campaign. The campaign was initiated in Amritsar on February 3.

Speaking at a seminar at Dayanand Medical College and Hospital today, Dr G P I Singh, an expert in social and preventive medicine and member of Doctors' for Food and Bio-Safety, pointed out that the decreased calorific content in Bt Brinjal and altered consumption would result in an adverse impact on nutrition.

"This may jeopardise the national health programmes for control of tuberculosis, diarrhoea and sexually transmitted diseases," he said.

The movement against GM foods is gathering momentum at a time when the biotech industry is seeking to introduce the first GM food crop in India in the form of Bt Brinjal, created by inserting a bacterial gene with antibiotic-resistant genes so that the plant produces its own poison against a certain set of pests.

Dr Inderjeet Kaur of All India Pingalwara Charitable Society said: "Indian regulators have compromised their objectivity by basing their approval on data submitted by the applicant company itself."

Dr L S Chawla, former Vice-Chancellor of Baba Farid University of Health Sciences, said: "Allowing GM foods like Bt Brinjal without prominent labelling will be a violation of a consumer's right to know what he/she is eating and the right to safe food. Bt Brinjal did not undergo any independent, long-term testing and it has already been established that GM foods have an adverse impact, including inter-generational effects, on the population."

The doctors collectively stated that commercial considerations must not be allowed to run at cross-purposes with long-term implications on human and animal health. The conference was attended by Dr Arun Mitra, Vice-President of the Indian Medical Association, Punjab, and noted ophthalmologist Padma Shri Dr Daljit Singh.

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