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Strong Pitch Against GM Foods
Author: Mahesh Bhattt

Publication: The Hindu (India)
Date: Sunday, March 22, 2009
KOCHI - Mahesh Bhatt, Ajay Kanchan and Devinder Sharma, the trio who made the film Poison on the Platter, a strong indictment of genetically-modified (GM) seeds, warn that tinkering with the GM technology is as dangerous as toying with nuclear arms

“Once out of control, it is unstoppable and its damage cannot be limited,” they said at a news conference here

The three were in town to screen their documentary that aims to educate the layperson about the dangers of GM food, the unscrupulous commercial motive of giant multinational corporations that hard-sell GM seeds and products, and the nexus among scientists, politicians and multinational companies. The movie, made in partnership with ‘Coalition for a GM-Free India’ urges people to say ‘no’ to GM foods.

GM seeds, which are made by inserting genes of desired quality from a cocktail of species into the seeds of a particular crop, might lead to unpredictable and horrible outcomes, they said. For instance, the gene that helps arctic fish to survive in freezing waters could be inserted to tomato seed to produce tomatoes with a very long shelf life. But, the same technology could also lead to totally unexpected results causing immense damage to humans and animals. The MNCs marketed the GM seeds by projecting them as disease-proof, insect-resistant and highly productive. Many of the claims were exaggerated and their side effects or negative impacts were always played down.

Mr. Kanchan said the film was made after six months of intensive research and that the team was fully convinced that GM was harmful to humankind. He noted that though India had prohibited import of GM foods, so many foods and food grains, such as corn, imported from the U.S. were made from GM seeds. “You could be eating GM food without knowing,” he said. While the European Union had shut its door on GM foods, in India, in spite of the ban, such foods were being marketed under the garb of regular food. He alleged that the MNCs had corrupted the regulatory mechanisms and scientists and regulatory agencies were pawns in the hands of the MNCs.

Well-known filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, who anchored the documentary, said that by helping to make the film, he was fulfilling his role as a human being. “The world is divided between those who care and those who don’t; we care and that is why we are here,” he said. He pointed out that the film was not against technology or scientific advancement, but against the misuse of technology.

Devinder Sharma, food policy analyst and columnist, said GM foods were known to have caused allergy, respiratory and intestinal problems and kidney diseases in humans.

He noted that over 50 GM crops were on trial in India and that the GM seeds companies were very influential in the corridors of power.

V.S. Vijayan, chairman of the Kerala Biodiversity Board, who attended the news conference, said GM seeds would play havoc with biodiversity. In Mexico, the cultivation of GM corn had led to the contamination of most of the local varieties.