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European Geneticists Caution India Against Gm Crops

By: ASHOK B SHARMA on: Fri 10 of July, 2009 12:57 GMT 
Two leading European geneticists have cautioned India not to accept genetically modified (GM) crops and food. They said that these products were rejected in Europe and were being willfully dumped in India by the multinational corporations as they could not find enough market in Europe.
The chair of the department of molecular biology in the University of Caen, France, Prof Gilles-Eric Seralini shared with the mediapersons on Friday the findings from his latest path breaking research on the adverse impact of herbicides like glyphosate. Results from his research show that this popularly used herbicide is also a part of the package for herbicide tolerant GM crops like Roundup Ready Soybean. The inert ingredients of Roundup Ready Soybeans can kill human cells, particularly embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells. Such cases have already occurred in Argentina were Roundup Ready Soybeans are extensively grown.
Seralini’s papers have been published in two leading scientific research journals and one such paper has been referred in Scientific American. His findings are relevant, in the context, as the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) in India is in the process of approving several herbicide tolerant GM crops for field trials.
Another European geneticist, Prof Michael Antoniou , reader in the department of medical and molecular genetics in King’s College, London said : “The only responsible use of genetic engineering is in a contained clinical laboratory setup. The extreme complexity with which genomic regulation works has not been understood by the best of geneticists and it should be remembered that GMOs released in the environment cannot be recalled. Precautionary approach is the only way forward with this technology.”
Seralini and Antoniou are presently in India addressing conferences of health experts, environmentalists and agriculture scientists.
The new Indian minister of state for environment and forests, Jairam Ramesh after  assuming his office had expressed apprehensions about health and environmental hazards of GM crops and assured to take necessary action before final approval for its commercial release.
Seralini, who is also directly associated with the France-based Committee for Independent Research and Information on Genetic Engineering (CRIIGEN), said : “99% of all GM crops are actually sponges of pesticides – they are either engineered to produce a pesticide or to tolerate a pesticide. This is the case with insect resistant crops like Bt cotton, Bt brinjal and herbicide tolerant crops like GM corn. Given such a technology, the adverse effect on human and animal health is often neglected by developer seed companies and regulatory authorities and this is unacceptable since we are dealing with an irreversible technology.”
He said that his findings based on the dossiers of Mahyco on biosafety of Bt brinjal showed that it was unsafe for human and animal consumption. His study noted, “The parameters affected in animals fed with Bt brinjal are in blood cells or chemistry, but in different manners according to the period of measurement during the study or sex. In goats, the prothrombin time is modified and biochemical parameters such as total bilirubin and alkaline phosphates are also changed, as well as feed consumption and weight gain. For rabbits, less consumption was noted and also prothrombin time modification, higher bilirubin in some instances, albumin, lactose dehydrogenase and the hepatic markers alanine and aspartate aminotransferases. Sodium levels were also modified, as well as glucose, platelet count, mean corpuscular haemoglobin concentration and haematocrit value. In cows, milk production and composition changed by 10%-14%.”
“Rats which were GM-fed had diarrhoea, had higher water consumption, suffered from decrease in liver weight as well as decrease in the relative liver to body weight ratio. Feed intake was modified in broiler chickens with glucose in some instances. Average feed conversion and efficiency ratios are changed in GM-fed fish. All that makes a very coherent picture of Bt brinjal to be potentially unsafe for human consumption. It will be also potentially unsafe to eat animals who have these problems. These differences are most often not reported in the summaries of different experiments, but are present in the raw data, ”the study added.
According to the study, these differences were, when discussed, disregarded often on the grounds that they were within the range of a wide “reference” group. The reference group represents a wide range of brinjal types and is not a strict comparison. Other reasons for disregarding the differences were that they did not show linear dose response or time response, or that they were only present in either males or females, but not both. Such declarations that the differences seen were not of biological relevance and unsubstantiated by the data presented from the feeding trials.
Clear and significant differences were seen to increase food safety concerns and warrant further investigation. Bt brinjal cannot be considered as safe as its non-GM counterpart, the study concluded.