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'State should lead the fight against GM food'
Express News Service, 21 Jan 2009

ISTTHIRUVANANTHAPURAM: "India should be declared a GM-free country,’’ said Agriculture Minister Mullakkara Ratnakaran here today. He was inaugurating the workshop on ‘Impact of Genetically Modified (GM) Food and Crops on health and biodiversity’ organised by the Kerala State Biodiversity Board.

The Minister said that Kerala had already been declared a GM-free State and we should lead the fight in defending the country against GM foods. ‘’We should abide by nature and defend ourselves from being laboratories of genetically-modified foods,’’ he said.

"The experiments on the consequences of consuming genetically-modified foods are still in the cradle and we don’t have to mortgage our freedom to decide our food to Monsanto or any other multinational company. We don’t want them to take away our right to decide our food or the pesticide to be used in our fields,’’ the Minister said. ‘’The corporates make GM food not in the interest of the humanity, but to further their business interests,’’ he added.

A book titled ‘Genetic Roulette’ by Jeffrey M.Smith was released by Ratnakaran on the occasion by giving a copy to V.S.Vijayan, chairman of Kerala State Biodiversity Board. Jeffrey is the executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology, USA.

Jeffrey, in his lecture, said that any flexibility shown by the Government in the matter of GM food would be dangerous. ‘’Allowing it will be an irreversible decision. Genes that we introduce would cross-pollinate, self-propagate and the outcome can be much more overwhelming than the global warming phenomenon,’’ he said. The unpredictable changes that a genetically-modified food can cause is the transfer of gene from food to our body cells or the bacteria that live inside us. The GM protein produced by the gene may have effects that were not intended, including toxic ones. Similar effects may also be caused if the inserted genes change its order.

"Worldwide, we should be campaigning for an immediate moratorium on GM trials. The Governments are not even conducting any clinical trials for GM foods or safety evaluation studies,’’ said Jeffrey, while listing the toxic effects of GM cotton, GM corn, GM soy, GM potato and GM tomato across the world. The GM products could introduce new allergens, toxins, disruptive chemicals, soil-polluting ingredients, mutated species, and unknown protein combinations into our bodies and into the whole environment,he said. "Here in India, labourers in cotton field have reported allergic reactions such as itching, skin eruption and discolouration after picking cotton. The cattle which fed on the plants after harvest also had severe problems like frothy salivation, nasal discharge, bulging head, fever and death. Buffaloes in Warangal that fed on GM crops had reproductory problems, abortions, reduction in milk yield and skin problems,’’ said Jeffrey.

Jeffrey said that researches across the world had shown that genetically-modified food can cause liver problems, reproductive problems, sterility, infant mortality, diseases and death in mice. "There is also a possibility that the toxin can affect the bacteria inside the rumen of the animals as post-mortem results showed that a lot of undigested GM cotton was found inside the rumen of buffaloes,’’ he said.