Sunday, October 16, 2011


The GM controversy has a checkered history ever since the technology bursted on the scene about two decades ago. The million dollar question being asked to day is whether foods created through GMO are really safe for long term consumption by human beings. At least one country and its government, seem to be believing that they are safe and had the audacity to clear many GM foods which have entered the main stream industry surreptitiously without the consumer being aware of it. It is appalling that more than 80% of the processed foods in the US contain GM food ingredient without carrying any label declaration to inform the consumers under the "Right to Know" principle enshrined in the Constitution. A new awareness seems to be emerging among the population there that they are being "defrauded" through concealment of the fact about GM foods in different processed products and one can expect more fierce campaigns in future by the people to force the hands of the government there. Here is a take on this latest development in the GM food front from the country which will have to answer to the world if there are any serious long term consequences arising out of thousands of GM crops being popularized by its Transnational companies with vested interest!

"In a February 1992 memo, Louis J. Pribyl, Ph.D., a scientist in the FDA's Microbiology Group, critiqued a draft of the policy by writing, "There is a profound difference between the types of unexpected effects from traditional breeding and genetic engineering which is just glanced over in this document." Dr. Pribyl added that "several aspects of gene insertion may be more hazardous than traditional plant crossbreeding." In a January 1992 memo, Linda Kahl, Ph.D., an FDA compliance officer, emphasized the lack of scientific data to recognize the safety of GM foods. "Are we asking the scientific experts to generate the basis for this policy statement in the absence of any data?" she asked. "There is no data that could quantify risk." E.J. Matthews, Ph.D., of the FDA's Toxicology group, warned in an October 1991 memo, "genetically modified plants could also contain unexpected high concentrations of plant toxicants." According to Steven M. Druker, J.D., executive director of the Alliance for Bio-Integrity, "Numerous agency experts protested that drafts of the statement of policy were ignoring the recognized potential for genetic engineering to produce unexpected toxins and allergens. But the policy was put into effect despite their scientific judgment that no GM foods can be presumed safe."

There are three aspects of GM foods which continue to be ignored by those who promote them. First about the right to know if the food is made differently. Second about safety of these foods for consumption in the long term. Third about environmental impact due to uncontrolled propagation of these products evolved through genetic engineering. Even if the two latter aspects about safety and environment are not clearly brought out through unanimous scientific evidence, still the first one regarding labeling should be insisted on leaving the choice to the consumer based on individual consumer perception. If irradiated foods are forced to declare the process on the label, why not the GM foods? A valid and relevant question indeed and the safety agency in the US must give a credible answer before long if the current campaigns assume a mass flavor in the coming years!


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