Skip to main content

Govt of India body 'ignoring' toxic effects of GM food: 162 doctors express concern

By Bharat Dogra* 

In recent weeks several groups which have been active on food safety issues have expressed concern about the serious health hazards involved in the increased possibility of introduction of imported or domestic GM foods in India. These concerns have been also related to the process of creating a regulatory framework by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).
In the latest initiative by such concerned groups including several independent experts and professionals, as many as 162 doctors have endorsed a statement which has been sent to the FSSAI authorities on February 3, 2022 by Dr Arun Gupta, MD FIAP, pediatrician, an expert on public health and nutrition.
It has been sent as a response to regulations on GM Foods put out by FSSAI for public feedback, as per Section 22 of the Food Safety and Standards Act 2006, on behalf of a group of medical professionals from all over India with different specialisations and expertise.
The statement says that GM foods, created out of deployment of modern biotechnology, are risky and therefore, there is obvious need for regulation. In India, the biosafety dossier of Bt brinjal and detailed analysis by numerous independent experts of the results of different health safety studies pointed to how it cannot be concluded to be safe for human health.
In fact, the conclusions veered towards how it could be toxic as human food. Bt brinjal’s release in India was put on an indefinite moratorium in 2010. Herbicide Tolerant Mustard was the next GM food crop, which was hastily cleared by the regulators without the biosafety dossier even put out in the public domain. Tests that ought to have been done were not even done, just like in the case of Bt brinjal too.
After briefly presenting this review of past developments, the statement by 162 doctors says it appears that independent scientific scrutiny of the developers’ own data is being feared now. However, citizens once again resisted and opposed this, and commercial cultivation approval has been put on hold.
While two GM food crops were stopped for cultivation in India through the presentation of scientific rationale that challenged any regulatory compromises, with citizens and state governments taking a firm stand against GM technology in our food and farming systems, FSSAI has now come up with these draft regulations.
Giving its opinion the statement says:
“It appears that these proposed regulations are actually a way to circumvent the fact that risky GM technology can be brought in only if regulations are compromised, and not by a rigorous biosafety assessment and protection regime (because any rigorous regime will reflect the inherently unsafe nature of this technology).
“These regulations have nothing about independent, long term, comprehensive, multi-generational biosafety assessment and seem to be ready to accept regulatory approvals for GM foods elsewhere, to allow them in India too. Such an approach obviously puts a question mark on the very purpose of notifying any regulations in the first instance.
“It is clear that India’s unique food cultures, our consumption and malnutrition situation, our poor state of public health and weak public healthcare systems, and our citizens’ preferences have all been set aside somewhat irresponsibly, as important considerations for framing these regulations.”
Voicing serious health concerns the 162 doctors say:
“It is a matter of additional concern that unknown and possibly toxic effects in undernourished children have been ignored in these draft regulations. State governments and their policy positions on the matter also do not seem to matter, even though public health is a State subject.
“Meanwhile, there is a body of scientific evidence to show the health risks that GM foods present. It appears to be from genes used in this technology and their toxic nature, from the genetic engineering process itself and the unpredictable, unstable changes that happen at the molecular level, from potential horizontal gene transfer and also from the toxic chemicals that usually accompany GM crops (the largest grown GM crops in the world, herbicide tolerant GM crops, have increased use and absorption of deadly herbicides by the crop, while insect resistance crops like Bt crops have toxins newly produced inside the plant even as pesticide usage increases in these crops too).”

Summarising some findings of published literature they say:
“It appears like organ damage, reproductive health problems, immunity compromise, effects on growth and development of an organism, allergies and so on can be the adverse health impacts from GM foods. Studies also show altered nutritional composition of foods. In such a context, it is but natural that citizens expect utmost responsibility and commitment from FSSAI to fulfill its primary mandate related to food safety. However, the draft regulations do not reflect this.
“Further, it is clear that GM foods, especially in the case of imported GM foods, will be in the form of Ultra Processed Foods, consumption of which, by their nature of processing, presents several health hazards such as cancers, Type-2 diabetes, Obesity, Cardiac disease, depression, frailty to quote a few . By paving an easy way for GM foods, FSSAI would also be allowing unhealthy UPFs to flood our food chain.”
Drawing attention to some wider issues, the statement states that for far too long, the Food Safety Authority has been reluctant to regulate GM foods, for reasons unclear to us, even though it was ready to regulate recommended foods like organic foods, which are highly in demand. FSSAI did not take stringent and deterrent action against sale of GM foods even though they were illegal and unpermitted. Now, it is seeking to formally pave the way for easier entry of all kinds of GM foods.
Finally, taking a clear stand on this important issue, the doctors:
“Through this letter, we want to let you know, as medical professionals, that the draft regulations are unacceptable in terms of their ability to uphold food safety. Today, the reality is that no GM foods have been permitted to be imported into, or sold in India. This de jure regulatory reality should be implemented, with penal action taken against anyone selling GM foods.
“This is what we seek from FSSAI. It should essentially ensure that GM foods do not enter our food chain, and that its regulatory tools and mechanisms (of sampling, inspection, testing etc.) ensure that no GM foods are sold in India. We therefore request you to withdraw the proposed unacceptable regulations completely, and revise the proposals drastically to ensure that the regulatory regime is mainly to keep GM foods out of the diets of Indians.”

The clear stand by these doctors is commendable. They have rendered a great public service and fulfilled their duty as guardians of public health by speaking out so clearly on this urgent issue at the right time. More and more doctors, health and nutrition experts should come forward to support their stand. Clearly GM foods pose one of the greatest health hazards, an unacceptably high health hazard and environmental hazard and should be resisted and stopped by a very strong nationwide campaign.
---
*Honorary convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His books include “Planet in Peril”, “Man Over Machine”, and “14 Questions on GM Crops”

Comments

TRENDING

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

How lead petitioner was rendered homeless when GM mustard matter came up in SC

By Rosamma Thomas*  On January 5, 2023, the Supreme Court stayed a December 20, 2022 direction of the Uttarakhand High Court to the Indian Railways and the district administration of Haldwani to use paramilitary forces to evict thousands of poor families occupying land that belonged to the railways.  Justice AS Oka remarked that it was not right to order the bringing in of paramilitary forces. The SC held that even those who had no rights, but were living there for years, needed to be rehabilitated. On December 21, 2022, just as she was getting ready to celebrate Christmas, researcher Aruna Rodrigues was abruptly evicted from her home in Mhow Cantonment, Madhya Pradesh – no eviction notice was served, and nearly 30 Indian Army soldiers bearing arms were part of the eviction process. What is noteworthy in this case is that the records establishing possession of the house date back to 1892 – the title deed with the name of Dr VP Cardoza, Rodrigues’ great grandfather, is dated November 14

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Tax buoyancy claims when less than 4% Indian dollar millionaires pay income tax

By Prasanna Mohanty  In FY18, the last year for which disaggregated income tax data is available, only 29,002 ITRs declared income above Rs 5 crore, while Credit Suisse said India had 7.25 lakh dollar millionaires (the wealth equivalent of Rs 8 crore and above) that year. Often enough, the Centre claims that demonetization in 2016 raised tax collections, improved tax efficiency, and expanded the tax base. Now RBI Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) member Ashima Goyal has also joined their ranks, attributing the “claims” of rising tax collections in the current fiscal year to “tax buoyancy” brought by the demonetisation . Do such claims have any basis in official records? The answer is unequivocal. The budget documents show the tax-to-GDP ratio (direct plus indirect tax) increased from 10.6% in FY16 (pre-demonetization) to 11.2% in FY17, remained there in FY18 (demonetization and GST fiscals), and then fell to 9.9% in FY20. In FY22, it improved to 10.8% and is estimated to drop to 10.7% in

Gandhian unease at Mahadev Desai book launch: Sabarmati Ashram may lose free space

By Rajiv Shah  A simmering apprehension has gripped the Gandhians who continue to be trustees of the Sabarmati Ashram: the “limited freedom” to express one’s views under the Modi dispensation still available at the place which Mahatma Gandhi made his home from 1917 to 1930 may soon be taken away. Also known as Harijan Ashram, a meeting held for introducing yet-to-be-released book, “Mahadev Desai: Mahatma Gandhi's Frontline Reporter”, saw speaker and after speaker point towards “narrowing space” in Gujarat for Gandhians (as also others) to express themselves. Penned by veteran journalist Nachiketa Desai, grandson of Mahadev Desai, while the book was planned to be released on January 1 and the meeting saw several prominent personalities, including actor-director Nandita Das, her scholar-mother Varsha Das, British House of Lords member Bhikhu Parekh, among others, speak glowingly about the effort put in for bringing out the book, exchanges between speakers suggested it should be rele

Civil rights leaders allege corporate loot of resources, suppression of democratic rights

By Our Representative  Civil rights activists have alleged, quoting top intelligence officers as also multiple international forensic reports, that recent developments with regard to the Bhima Koregaon and the Citizenship Amendment Act-National Register of Citizens (CAA-NRC) cases suggest, there was "no connection between the Elgaar Parishad event and the Bhima Koregaon violence." Activists of the Campaign Against State Repression (CASR) told a media event at the HKS Surjeet Bhawan, New Delhi, that, despite this, several political prisoners continue to be behind bars on being accused under the anti-terror the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Addressed by family members of the political prisoners, academics, as well as social activists, it was highlighted how cases were sought to be fabricated against progressive individuals, democratic activists and intellectuals, who spoke out against "corporate loot of Indian resources, suppression of basic democratic

Kerala natural rubber producers 'squeezed', attend to their plight: Govt of India told

By Rosamma Thomas   Babu Joseph, general secretary of the National Federation of Rubber Producers Societies (NFRPS) at a recent discussion at Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, explained that it is high time the Union government paid greater heed to the troubles plaguing the rubber production sector in India – rubber is a strategic product, important for the military establishment and for industry, since natural rubber is still used in the manufacture of tyres for large vehicles and aeroplanes. Synthetic rubber is now quite widespread, but styrene, which is used in making synthetic rubber and plastics, and also butadiene, another major constituent of synthetic rubber, are both hazardous. Prolonged exposure to these even in recycled rubber can cause neurological damage. Kerala produces the bulk of India’s natural rubber. In 2019-20, Kerala’s share in the national production of rubber was over 74%. Over 20% of the gross cropped area in the state is under rubber cultivation, with total

Why no information with Assam state agency about female rhino poaching for a year?

By Nava Thakuria   According to official claims, incidents of poaching related to rhinoceros in various forest reserves of Assam in northeast India have decreased drastically. Brutal laws against the poachers, strengthening of ground staff inside the protected forest areas and increasing public awareness in the fringe localities of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries across the State are the reasons cited for positively impacting the mission to save the one-horned rhinos. Officials records suggest, only two rhinos were poached in Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve since 1 January 2021 till date. The last incident took place probably in the last week of December 2021, as a decomposed carcass of a fully-grown (around 30 years old) female rhino was recovered inside the world-famous forest reserve next month. As the precious horn was missing, for which the gigantic animal was apparently hunted down, it could not be a natural death. Ironically, however, it was not confirmed when

Lack of welfare schemes, BSF curbs force West Bengal farmers to migrate far away

Counteview Desk  In a representation to the National Human Rights Commission chairperson, a senior West Bengal based activist has complained that villagers living near the border with Bangladesh are forced to migrate to as far away as Mumbai and Kerala because of lack of government sensitivity towards their welfare in original villages. Giving specific instances, Kirity Roy, secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), said, if the Border Security Force (BSF) had not put any restriction on agricultural activities, and if villages had properly implemented welfare schemes, these people would never migrate to other States. Text: I want to attract your immediate attention to the inhumane condition of the migrated workers of Gobra village, Swarupnagar Block in North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal to seek your urgent intervention to protect the rights of these people. Gobra is a village situated near the Indo-Bangladesh Border where the border fencing is about 500 meters i