New Delhi, Oct.15 : "We will survive without GM (Genetically Modified) food but we will never be able to survive the change unleashed by the tide of modification that is called Genetic Engineering" said Aruna Roy, at the launch of Greenpeace's Genetic Gamble report on India's GM Food proliferation on the eve of World Food Day.
Others who made strong public statements against GM food included Dr. Mira Shiva, Initiative for Health and Equity and Society and Mr.Bejon Misra, Consumer Voice.
"Studies from across the globe have shown that GM food has caused a series of health problems including adverse effects on growth, impaired immune system, and organ damage that can be carried over generations" stated Dr. Mira Shiva.
Alarmed by the growing, uncontrolled and yet highly glamorized role of genetic engineering in India, the report brings to light various facts not been publicized earlier in spite of the advanced level of field testing and commercialization of GM food crops. The report has been compiled by the combined effort of Health professionals as well as civil society organizations highlights the pertinent danger that inadequately tested GM could pose to consumer health, agriculture, environment, and even revenues earned from food exports.
According to the report, GE food research has increased by almost 250% since 2005. After brinjal, which is in the last stage of approvals without its safety independently verified, there are 25 kinds of rice varieties and 23 kinds of tomato and many kinds of groundnut, pigeon pea, potato, mustard, sugarcane, cowpea and soy in the line of approvals. Even trees and traditional Ayurvedic medicinal herbs have not been spared and are being subject to genetic engineering.
Talking about the uncontrolled proliferation of GM crops and the fact that GM crops cannot easily be distinguished from non-GM crops, Bejon Misra stated that the consumer's choice would be restricted. "What people need is nutritive and safe food, and a knowledge of what is being forced down their throats so that consumers can make an informed decision" he stated. he Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) which is the regulatory authority for GM food has permitted the field trials across the country. "One of the most glaring regulatory gaps is the system in which bio-safety of GM crops is given the least importance. The startling fact is that even after two years of field trials, none of the regulatory bodies have any conclusive evidence on the bio-safety of GM rice, okra and mustard." stated Mira Shiva.
The report launch follows the apparent green signal from the GEAC about safety of Bt Brinjal, though there have been no long term studies done to indicate the safety of the first GM food crop of India. "At the international level, GM food has been either banned or strict restrictions implemented in the European Union, Japan, South Korea and many countries in Africa. Yet India continues to live in the fantasy that GM is the panacea for many of our food and agriculture problems" said Jai Krishna, campaigner from Greenpeace, that has been fighting the GM explosion in India since 2001.
"We have been turned into lab rats for GM Food and the Health Minister has been a mute spectator as the Right to Health of every citizen slips from the purview of the health ministry and moves into the hands of trans-national seed corporations" Jai Krishna added
The report is part of a larger national campaign to reach out to all Indian citizens for them to have their say in the food safety debate. As part of the campaign, citizens across the country have been writing to the Union Health Minister Dr.Anbumani Ramadoss to step in and stop unsafe GM food immediately.
Upholding the Indian citizen's right to choose, Greenpeace demands that:
No open air release of GMOs should happen unless there are independent long term health and environmental impact studies conducted and published for an independent public scrutiny conducted on them
Health Ministry and the newly constituted FSSA should take up the responsibility for bio-safety approvals of GM crops.