HEALTH EPIDEMIC LOOMS AS CSE FINDS UNPRECEDENTED LEVELS OF GM GENES IN INDIAN FOODS

HEALTH EPIDEMIC LOOMS AS CSE FINDS UNPRECEDENTED LEVELS OF GM GENES IN INDIAN FOODS

GM markers were found in the edibles oils that were blended with Bt cottonseed oil in India.
A public health epidemic looms over Indians as Monsanto/Bayer’s propaganda is exposed by a recent scientific report published by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) which found unprecedented levels of genetically modified genes in Indian foods, imported and domestically produced.
 
In particular, edible oils and cottonseed oil from India found genetic modified organism presence. These facts confirm claims made by in an earlier report and at the same time refutes Monsanto/Bayer’s propaganda published as a reply.
 
CSE’s Pollution Monitoring Laboratory proved through scientific evidence that out of the tested 65 food products available in Indian markets – 32 percent of these were found to be GM-positive. These food products were purchased randomly from retail outlets in Delhi-NCR, Punjab and Gujarat. Both imported (35) and domestically produced (30) samples were tested – imported samples fared worse: 80 per cent of the products which were found to be GM-positive.
 
The tale of two (GM) Tests
 
To understand this issue deeper, I spoke with Amit Khurana, one of the scientists who conducted the GM study. While claiming the findings expose a huge illegality and public health danger, he said, “We have tested for the GM markers only, which is a qualitative testing. This mechanism is the first test done internationally for finding GM in food. We have been very rigourous in our tests and concluded the presence of GM in certain foods. Our lab report is up for anybody to review. ”
 
Khurana is certain that their study has been conducted with highest scientific precision and accurate, transparent methods and findings. The study reveals a hazardous gap on behalf of first Monsanto/Bayer, who have outrightly lied in their biosafety submission to the GEAC, stating that “Bt cotton seed oil is equivalent to natural cottonseed oil” and there are no GM traces present in the Bt cottonseed oil. Second, on the part of the edible oil companies, who decided to use the transgenic Bt cottonseed as a substitute for natural cotton seed without regulatory approval, put in peril the health of Indians, and heightens the potential for a possible public health epidemic.
 
In the USA, where cottonseed oil ranks third in terms of volumes among edible oils, the US National Products association has stated that oil refined from genetically engineered cotton seed varieties does not carry any risk for consumers (ICAC Recorder March, 2001). It further states that refined cottonseed oil could be safely consumed because there is no protein content resulting from DNA, native or otherwise was detected in the oil. The CSE study proves that is not the case. GM markers were found in the edibles oils that were blended with Bt cottonseed oil in India. In simple words, GM leaked into our food, despite Monsanto’s science, saying it wont.
 
Experts from the ICAR-Post harvest technology also agreed they rely on data from CICR-Nagpur, and there is no independent data or studies on this subject.
 
Gaining access to the printed biosafety submissions made by Monsanto also helped which assert the same belief. This document is “no longer available” on the GEAC website.
Warning of this contamination of our edible oils was outlined in a book on Bt cotton by ex-CICR head Dr K R Kranthi stating:
“The possible routes of Bt-cotton protein entering the food chain are, through human consumption of un-refined cottonseed oil, in which traces of Bt protein may be present with particulate seed residues or through consumption of meat or milk of the animals which fed on Bt cotton seed-cake.”
 
It is surprising why this report remains on Bt cottonseed oil, considering that 99 percent of India’s cotton is Bt Cotton and it is illegally being blended into edible oils as a substitute from natural cottonseed oil. As far as the refining process is considered, FSSAI still has no regulatory framework to ensure Bt genes does not enter our food. The GEAC themselves did little to ensure such practises are curbed, even after another report released by the CICR, Coimbatore in 2007 stated, “Refined oil samples of Bt cotton did not show the presence of Cry1 Ac while the crude seed oil samples of Bt cotton showed about 100 pg Cry1 Ac protein in 500 l oil.”
 
One is reminded of Dr M S Kairon, ex- head of CICR-Nagpur, when he stated that “things have to be transformed in the same way they are grown, so a geneticist and cotton scientist, I can tell you it will have GM residues and traces which over prolonged consumption is bound to be harmful”.
 
GM – BT!
 
What does this study mean in terms of biosafety and possibly the health of a billion Indians? They are in danger! We had two biosafety experts, Gilles-Eric Seralini and Vandana Shiva to understand this issue better. Dr Vandana Shiva, scientist and biosafety expert commented on this gap on knowledge and regulation surrounding Bt Cotton by saying, “Illegal GMO Roundup Ready Bt Cotton has spread in farmers fields with no action from GEAC. Illegal GMO foods are flooding India’s markets with no action from FSSAI. The government Govt is supposed to protect its citizens from harm and from illegal actions. How long will it protect the GMO industry and allow Indians farmers and citizens to be harmed?”
 
While Dr Seralini is no stranger to GMOs and their toxicity on human cells and other life. He has been a victim of propaganda attacks and a vicious media trail for standing by independent science. Despite the various allegations against him, the French courts have stood with him and penalised his attackers for defamation.
 
So, what is his scientific opinion on symptoms of ingesting Monsanto/Bayer’s Bt toxins, etc over a five/ ten year time period? It is a simple yet grim one, “We have already demonstrated on mammals that Bt toxins attack mucosal and epithelial cells, inducing heavy long term chronic diseases,” Dr Seralini warns. His website is filled with plenty of scientific research papers on the toxicity of each types of GMOs.
 
Explaining the gravity of this threat to the government, Seralini says, “Label GMOs which are full of toxic pesticides such as Roundup or other herbicides, and toxic mutated artificial Bt insecticides, avoid in general GMOs and pesticides to preserve India from very serious health and environmental risks, and patents on foods which are starving the population and increasing chronic illnesses.”
 
Highway to Hell?
 
Between this war of lies, science, technology and propaganda, the every day Indian is suffering silently. GMOs and pesticides are like the new biological arsenal that feeds diseases from variety of cancers to farmers’ suicides. There is neither credible discourse on the subject nor has the Indian government initiated any independent scientific studies before adopting Monsanto/Bayer’s GMOs. Such was also the recommendation by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on science and technology in their report 301 on GM crops and its effects.
 
India’s food regulatory body Food Safety Standards Authority of India is no stranger with the GM debate. Recently FSSAI received strong criticism for its GM labelling rule, which many are calling too “lenient, corporate driven and unsound”.
I spoke with FSSAI CEO Pawan, to determine how he understands these findings. He replied by saying “FSSAI is taking all measures to give Indian citizens, the highest standard of food safety. We are aware of the CSE report. FSSAI had started its work on devising regulations for GM food in India. For which, we are looking at the experience on this around the world”.
 
WHO and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) have both cautioned against GMOs and WHO has further a major GM linked herbicide “probably carcinogenic”. While also a recent scientific study in the August 2018 journal of International Immunopharmacology, found that Bt protein, present in Bt crops, lead to immune reactions and observed that it triggered food allergy and intestinal inflammation in mice. Along with doubts within the Indian Parliament expressed gravely in report 301 published August 2017.
 
Still many civic groups, along with food activists are filled with doubt over FSSAI’s GM labelling. Krishan Bir Chaudhary, President of Bhartiya Krishak Samaj, was highly disturbed by the decision. “The international food cartel now wants to take full control of Indians health and food, by corrupt and un-scientific means. We will and Narendra Modi government will not be mislead by these pseudo-science. We oppose this step completely.” Pawan mentioned to me his apprehensions, while at the same time assures us that correct steps will be taken, “Scientific literature suggests that there are no verifiable differences in health effects of approved GM foods compared to conventional foods, but perhaps consumers have the right to know if food is GM or not? Surveillance done by CSE is useful and gives a good sense of field realities in India. Let me assure you, that FSSAI is committed to put in place a robust regulatory framework for GM foods and it will be in place soon.”
 
GM food contamination is a grave issue, that already threatens lives of over a billion Indians. It is now time for the government to wake up to this reality , and to steer India away from a health epidemic, time is running out.
 
 
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