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Genetically engineered foods and health risks, A review of recent events in India

February 7th, 2009

Arun Shrivastava CMC

This is a summary article of what has transpired in the last fifteen days in Delhi in matters concerning genetically engineered seeds and foods.

Dr. SN Pandey, professor and head of the School of Oriental Medicine, The Global Open University [TGOU], at a seminar held 5th February said that he would initiate 40-50 research studies on health and environmental aspects of genetically engineered seeds and foods. Jeffrey M Smith, author of 'Seeds of Deception' and 'Genetic Roulette', was the keynote speaker in the TGOU seminar attended by over thirty top health professionals and advisors to the Government of India.

The myth of safe Bt seeds

During his hour-long power point presentation, Jeffrey described how genetic engineering of seeds is an imperfect science with unknown consequences. The method of gene insertion is essentially based on chance that the desired traits would be transferred to natural gene sequences. This is fraught with dangers because inserted genes are not stable and can and do mutate in unintended ways. This is extremely dangerous for human and animal health and the wider environment. He further stressed that neither the Food and Drug Administration [FDA] in the USA nor India's Genetic Engineering Approvals Committee [GEAC] have conducted the required biosafety, toxicity and other tests on any of the released engineered seeds.

Dr Pushp M Bhargava [one of world's leading molecular biologist] said that he had submitted to the Government of India, at least twenty years ago, a list of thirty tests that must be done before releasing genetically engineered organisms in nature. He further said that if these tests are properly carried out it would take around twenty years before safety of an engineered organism can be established. Instead of exercising due diligence and oversight, the GEAC has been approving food and fibre seeds on the assurance of firms like Monsanto [1] that their Bt seeds are safe "without even reading and reviewing tests done by seeds' firms," said he. This was a scathing indictment of the Indian regulatory authority.

Recalling earlier days of the technology of gene splicing and genetic engineering, he said that he had reviewed six hundred research papers in 1973 and had come to the conclusion that the technology is 'unreliable.' Later, in a major meeting in 1975, scientists had reached a consensus that there is need for caution 'even in laboratory experiments.' [2] He told the Rajiv Gandhi Government (1984-89) to set up a laboratory for testing. Why was this laboratory not set up? In India there is not a single laboratory that can perform the required tests. "India shining" has no funds to set up a laboratory to test its genetically engineered foods that would eventually take all the shine off?

Jeffrey added that the excuse used by Indian regulators 'that FDA is satisfied therefore there is no cause for concern' is false as top officials of FDA, mainly political appointees, despite overwhelming evidence of adverse health and environmental impacts of engineered seeds and foods uncovered by FDA's own scientists, have brushed aside these concerns and, in utter violation of laid down protocols, approved seeds that are already devastating the health of American citizens and the environment. Please recall that Bayer's Liberty Link event 601 [an engineered rice seed] has contaminated American rice affecting rice exports to the European Community. [3]

"The clear strategy of Monsanto, Dow, DuPont and the Washington Government [it does not matter which government comes to power: Clinton, Bush or Obama, they are all mass murderers] backing them was to introduce the GMO seeds in every corner of the globe, with priority on defenceless …..African and developing countries," writes Engdahl [4].

The US and Canadian farmlands came under GMOs and Monsanto's control. It was suspected that GMO could pose serious threat to human and animal health and the environment, yet efforts at independent biosafety assessment were discontinued. Scientists carrying out honest studies were vilified. The systematic silencing and destruction of the credibility of scientific institutions globally by the Rockefellers and the Rothschild was actually a planned destruction for corporatization of the world agriculture, control over seeds and food production, and trafficking in drugs. The strategy was backed up by US Department of Defense, the charities and foundations that act as fronts for the CIA [like the Ford Foundation and the USAID], some of the leading US Universities, and even the Church.

Farmers' suicides and Bt seeds

Earlier, on 23rd January 2009 press conference [5] Dr KB Chaudhary, leader of India's largest farmers' union called Bhartiya Kisan Sangh, (BKS), had soundly condemned the secretive and irresponsible manner of the functioning of GEAC. He said that Bt seeds neither increase yield nor reduce cost of production nor reduce pesticide consumption and further added that the Indian Council for Agriculture Research [ICAR] has been fraudulently manipulating yield data on Bt seeds in collusion with firms like Mahyco [the Indian subsidiary of Monsanto]. He even demanded that Dr. Mangla Rai, Director General of ICAR, should be charged with treason.

The seeds firms led by Monsanto, a US registered corporation, in turn, have been luring and defrauding poor farmers all over India. Particularly in cotton growing regions of central India, year after year, failed seeds were pushed leaving millions of cotton farmers trapped in massive debt.

In Green Revolution regions of India the cost of farming operations has been going up, yields are now stagnant, and farmers are trapped in debt. India has provision of 'Civil Jail' under Money Lending Act introduced by the British during the hay days of their Raj to enslave the farmers. If farmers default on repayment of debt, they are imprisoned in Civil Jail because failure to repay loan is a civil offense. Dr. BD Sharma, a former civil servant and advisor to the Government of India, says that it is not merely imprisonment but the manner in which they are arrested, handcuffed and paraded through the village up to the Police Station that psychologically destroys a farming household. "It is shameful and breach of the letter and spirit of the law," said he. When that happens, a farmer finds his credibility and social standing destroyed and is left with no option but to commit suicide. The mass suicide of farmers is yet another, perhaps 'intended' outcome of the Gene revolution.

Unconfirmed report of a meeting of top Agri-business firms' representatives and senior officials of India's Department of Biotechnology indicates that the Big Agri-biz firms need just two million farmers to take full control over India's agricultural production. When Indian officers reminded them that there are 149 million farming households in India they were told that "you do what you want with the remaining 147 million." There is no way one can verify what transpired between the two groups but all evidences point up to the fact that corporate control of India's agriculture is on, like the Titanic, full steam ahead. The corporations destroyed American farmers and people's pride and self respect; exactly the same process is on here, now, right now. Like the Titanic, when they do see the disaster, it would be perhaps too late; I suspect that the Titanic of Indian agriculture is already sinking with no lifeboats to rescue even the few chosen ones.

Thus far, over 125,000 farmers have committed suicide. The powerful ground swell of people's opposition to this genocide led the Government of India to announce sop of Rupees 50,000 million bailout of the farmers. What happened?

Kishore Tiwari of Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samittee [VJAS, translated into English would be Vidabha People's Revolution Committee] says that, in a plea to the Maharashtra High Court, the institutionalized corruption and red-tapism in implementation of Rs 50,000 million bailout is the main cause of the government's failure to arrest the ever growing suicide of distressed farmers in the most backward Vidarbha region of Maharashtra. [6]

Why grazing animals died?

Early 2008, 13 buffalos grazing on Bt cotton fields after harvest died. Jeffrey presented the summary of the autopsy report in the seminar which shows that the digestive system of the buffalos was compromised and they all died of toxicity leading to the failure of vital organs. [7]. This was consistent with what happened to a German farmer's cows, quoted in William Engdahl's 'Seeds of Destruction', a book I had reviewed in 2008. [8] I wrote this:

"Engdahl cites the example of a German farmer Gottfried Glockner's experience with GM corn. Glockner planted Bt176 event of Syngenta essentially as feed for his cows. Being a scientist, he started with 10% GM feed and gradually increased the proportion, carefully noting milk yield and any side effects. Nothing much happened in the first three years but when he increased the feed to 100% GM feed, his animals "were having gluey-white feaces and violent diarrhea" and "milk contained blood." Eventually all his seventy cows died. Prof Angelika Hilbeck of Swiss Federal Institute of Technology found from Glockner's Bt 176 corn samples Bt toxins were present "in active form and extremely stable." The cows died of high dose of toxins. Not if, but when human food is 100% contaminated should be a sobering thought."

These events clearly demonstrate that genetically engineered fodder kills animals. Given to animals in feed lots or grazing free range in raw form, animals will die a painful death. It essentially means that only genetically engineered animals will survive the genetically engineered environment. Will engineered animals survive is also a vital question because none appears to be viable.

What about humans?

No serious toxicity and allergenicity tests have ever been conducted on humans. Dr Bhargava on 23rd January said exactly this. He said that, since no toxicity studies have been done, 'we don't know how unstable genes will mutate, what protein make-up will emerge' …..and cause unknown diseases and fatalities. The Indian Council of Medical research [ICMR] has no idea; none of the regulatory bodies anywhere in the world has any idea as to how they will treat a person with violent, perhaps lethal reaction, to food poisoning engendered by genetically engineered foods. Jeffrey said that 100+ persons have died of severe reactions and perhaps about 5000+ were hospitalized in the USA. How many countries in the world have the physical ability to respond to a medical emergency caused by food poisoning from genetically engineered foods? How many doctors even know what protocols to follow in the event of food poisoning by genetically engineered foods? Perhaps none.

Both Dr Bhargava and Jeffrey Smith quoted the animal studies of Irina Ermakova [Russia], Dr Seralini [Bt Brinjal studies in France] and Dr Arpad Pusztai's studies [in England] among others. They said that these scientists have all found that Genetically engineered foods:

  • Damage vital organs like lungs, liver, kidney and testes; [Arpad Puzstai studies]
  • Offspring's of female mice were half the size as compared to normally fed mice and that 50% of the offspring of genetically engineered food fed female mice died prematurely; [Ermakova studies]
  • Bt Brinjal will cause a serious health and environmental problems; [Seralini study] It should be noted that brinjal is native plant of India, a vital food for South Asians. We Indians eat brinjal often half cooked. [9]

Every scientist anywhere in the world who has raised concerns over threats posed by genetically engineered seeds and foods has been denigrated, frequently dismissed from service. Dr Psztai was summarily removed after 36 years of distinguished career. Dr Irena Ermakova was denied further financial support in Russia and told not to pursue her research on animal studies. Despite these constraints she has been honest enough to state publicly in Delhi that her studies should be replicated [October 2, 2008, New Delhi]

Do we need engineered foods?

Dr Bhargava posed a question in the Press Conference, 'Do we really need Bt brinjal?' Look at any Government data anywhere. Was there a "decline" in Bt brinjal production anywhere in India? Did Bt brinjal seeds needed to be engineered? Against what?

Bayer, a German GM seeds' firm, contaminated American rice, destroyed the global credibility of American farmers. Rice is so valuable a crop that it is not only the number one cereal of the world; it has religious, cultural and spiritual value in Asia. Just one criminal firm destroyed the worth of American rice and destroyed te credibility of American farmers. Can we the people of the world live this sort of criminality of one firm?

When evidences clearly show that genetically engineered seeds neither increase yield, nor reduce the cost of production nor reduce pesticidal insults on the environment, and we suspect that they don't enhance natural nutritive content of our foods either, so vital for our survival, because Governments own agencies have been compromised not to perform any nutrition tests on engineered foods, why are the Governments all over the world allowing this uncontrollable biological experiment of a sort that would alter the natural systems in perpetuity, globally?

A vital point with genetically engineered foods is that if you cook it properly the living cells are dead and one is safe. However, it is also a fact that raw foods are healthiest. It means that people who eat raw foods, especially veggies, will not be able to enjoy their favorite raw juice, salad, chutney or pickles. Genetically engineered foods will change food culture worldwide. We shall be forced to eat only processed foods.

Therefore, the conclusions we can safely arrive at are: (a) We don't need genetically engineered seeds or foods, (b) Farmers will forever lose their saved seeds and that is unacceptable, (c) if we allow GE seeds, we shall forever be dependent on food firms that are part of a global nexus of seeds, fertilizer, pesticide, food processing and drug and pharmaceutical forms. If that is acceptable to the people of the world, so be it. It is not acceptable to us and we shall resist.

Codex Alimentarius

And Codex Alimentarius, the lethal WTO food law, will ensure that we only eat foods that the food corporations want us to eat. The lethal seeds corporations are ensuring that we buy foods from lethal food firms. And the laws are being knocked into place to ensure that we desist from growing our foods, or saving our seeds. The Svalbard Seeds Vault, controlled by some of world most criminal corporations, will insure that natural seeds are only available to the firms for modifying seeds the way they want because in less than seven years all our natural foods will be contaminated with alien genes. The purpose of Codex Alimentarius is that we eat what corporations feed us.

My question to the employees of Monsanto?

And I pose this question to the employees of Monsanto worldwide and their private police in the USA terrorizing and brutalizing American farmers, their top management and their management consultants who actually worked out the strategy to control world's food: "Would you outlive us if you carry on with your criminal activity of irreversibly contaminating all life forms on earth?

Please do not forget that in your own company canteen genetically engineered foods are NOT served. So, why are you complicit in poisoning our foods?

And if you know that farmlands can be utterly contaminated in about seven years, how long would you survive? And your children? And your grandchildren? Do you want your children and grandchildren to be genetic mutants with three eyes, four hands and missing brain? Do you bastards want your children and grandchildren to crawl on their hinds without a feet or hand like snakes?"

Do you, the employees of Monsanto, believe that you eat Martian meat and Plutonian wheat? Are you humans or inter-planetary invaders? Genetic mutants believing that you have evolved beyond the Homo sapiens specie? And do you know what is in store for the likes of you? There is still time to resign and leave the company.

Leave it now before the people of the world hang you from the nearest tree!

What does the law say?

In a landmark out of court settlement Monsanto, the world's largest seed company, and also world's largest genetically engineered seeds producer, finally agreed to pay up Percy Schmeiser, a Canadian farmer, the cost of cleaning up contamination of Schmeiser's farm land. The out of court settlement has huge implication. "The acceptance of responsibility by Monsanto as the owner of the patented Transgene for the contamination of neighbouring fields opens the path for all farmers in the world to demand compensation by Monsanto." [10] This opportunity should not be missed by the civil society, consumers, farmers and activists in India [one of 12 regions of megabiodiversity], South Asia and the world.

Please note that once natural seeds are contaminated, there is no way they can be decontaminated.

Given the evidences, it is clear, without doubt, that genetically engineered seeds are equivalent to, or better than, Weapons of Mass Destruction. The Government of the United States has this to say:

"It was not surprising that the Pentagon's National Defense University, on the eve of the 2003 Iraq War, issued a paper declaring: 'Agribiz is to the United States what oil is to the Middle East.' Agribusiness had become a strategic weapon in the arsenal of the world's only superpower." [11]

    The provisions of US FEDERAL CODE: TITLE 50, CHAPTER 40, 2302 needs to be invoked to nail these criminals worldwide. In this chapter the term "weapon of mass destruction" means any weapon or device that is intended, or has the capability, to cause death or serious bodily injury to a significant number of people through the release, dissemination, or impact of (A) toxic or poisonous chemicals or their precursors, (B) a disease organism; or (C) radiation or radioactivity. [Definitions Release Date: 2005-03-17]

It is worth exploring the possibility of invoking [B] in case of GMOs because the contaminated seeds and food crops that have turned India into free-for-all-killing-fields of US corporations like Monsanto. India has been set up for mass culling, with full cooperation of the Indian Government. These corporations along with Indian regulators need to be nailed, tried for human rights violations and treason.

Conclusion

The surplus 147 million Indian farming households [about 735 million people, taking five member to each household] are in the process of being culled; so will the majority of us be culled, worldwide. Ruthlessly. No one knows how many will survive, what the survivors would eat, how they will live. We don't even know if the perpetrators have developed technology to reverse biological contamination. Given their limited knowledge and criminality and their penchant for domination, that possibility appears remote.

    It strongly indicates that genetically engineered seeds are being used as weapons of mass destruction. We have a right to the foods we want to eat, not what Monsanto or Bayer or Syngenta want us to eat. I suggest, there should be a world-wide demand to identify levels of contamination. If our foods are found contaminated, the specific gene should be identified and lawsuits filed in every developing country and in the United Stated of America and in Europe and in Russia. Furthermore, if our soil, water and natural habitat are contaminated, let these corporations pay for cleaning up. We are not their rats. The people of this world are not lab rats to be tested by a handful of criminal corporations backed by the armed forces of a Government that is known for its criminality worldwide.

Endnotes:

[1] Monsanto is world's most lethal and corrupt corporation:

  • http://dandelionsalad.wordpress.com/2008/03/22/the-world-according-to monsanto-a-documentary-that-americans-wont-ever-see/ Sorry, Google pulled this video. One needs to watch these when they first come out as they don't last too long on Google/YouTube, says the website. But try to see the video.
  • Also see, Time for Action Against Monsanto By Siv O'Neall
  • The Real News Network: The World According to Monsanto
  • Patent For a Pig (vid) + Monsanto files patent for new invention: the pig (2005)
  • William Clinton & Monsanto – a Team for Mutual Profit
  • Letter to Hillary about Monsanto connections (02.03.08)
  • Monsanto's Harvest of Fear
  • The World According to Monsanto - A documentary that Americans won't ever see
  • GMO
  • [2] It is unfortunate that Dr Ananada Chakraborty, an Indian scientist working for a US corporation, pursued patenting of oil eating bacteria and he was allowed patenting of a life form. This opened the floodgates of patenting of life form that Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer and others are capitalizing on. They don't own nature but by engineering nature they are claiming that they do. And it is backed by Intellectual Property Rights [IPR] regime of the World Trade Organization [WTO].

    [3] Arun Shrivastava, 'The Death of Rice" published by the Global Research at http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=9562

    [4] William Engdahl; "Seeds of Destruction'; page 270

    [5] The objective of the press conference was to raise awareness on the health threats posed by Genetically Modified foods. There were three key speakers: Dr KB Chaudhary, Dr Pushp M Bhargava and Jeffrey M Smith. 23 national dailies were present and they extensively reported the discussion in their respective newspapers. The event followed the launch of Jeffrey's Indian Edition of 'The Genetic Roulette in New Delhi on 23rd January, 2009.   

    [6] Please note that Maharashtra is one of the few industrially and agriculturally most "advanced states" of India, It is home to Bollywood of beautiful people and Follywood of ugly politicians, including some of the world's most powerful gangsters like Dawood Ibrahim who, according Wayne Madsen Report, was responsible for Mumbai Mayhem in November 2008. VJAS is Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti [Translated into English it means Vidarbha People's  Revolutionary Committee]. Led by Kishore Tiwary, they have extensively documented the number and nature of farmers' suicides in this cotton growing region. It is because their efforts that the Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar had to state that over 125,000 farmers have committee suicide. It should be noted that Sharad Pawar, suffering from cancer, has direct as well as indirect stake in Monsanto's operations in India.

    [7] Please see Jeffrey M Smith's website for more information here: http://www.seedsofdeception.com/Public/Home/index.cfm/

    [8] Book Review of Seeds of Destruction (a) by Arun Shrivastava, here: http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=9379 And (b) by Stephen Lendman, here http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=7716

    [9] The Committee for Independent Research and Information on Genetic Engineering has submitted to India's Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) that Bt brinjal's release into the environment for food and feed in India may present a serious risk for human and animal health. It has said Bt brinjal's commercial release should be forbidden. Professor Gilles-Eric Seralini's analysis of Mahyco's Bt brinjal biosafety data says that the Bt brinjal produces a protein which can induce resistance to kanamycin, a well-known antibiotic, which could be a major health problem. The analysis was commissioned by Greenpeace. http://www.freshplaza.com/news_detail.asp?id=36547

    [10] Monsanto has to Accept Full Responsibility for Genetic Contamination, July 3, 2008 http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=9494

    [11] William Engdahl; "Seeds of Destruction'; page 143

    -###-

    © Copyright: Arun Shrivastava CMC, MA, MBA, MBIM, is an accredited management consultant, author of many books, reports, policy papers and articles and regular contributor to several news websites (www.globalresearch.ca, www.thepeoplesvoice.org, www.mynews.in/ etc). A former officer of Economic Development Unit Birmingham, UK] and former visiting professor of Strategic Management and Business Policy at International Management Institute, New Delhi (1990-94), he is a founder-member of Himalayan Policy Campaign Committee. He lives in Delhi and can be reached at arun1951@yahoo.com.

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